Black Snake Moan

Rated 4.0

A middle-aged Tennessee sharecropper and former blues guitarist (Samuel L. Jackson) finds a young woman (Christina Ricci), half-naked and badly beaten, in the road near his farmhouse. He first takes her in to help her, then holds her prisoner to cure the wanton “wickedness” he sees in her. In a slowly forming friendship, they begin to understand the wounds in one another and themselves. Writer-director Craig Brewer’s new film is a quantum leap over his last, Hustle & Flow, though it has the same rough energy and intuitive feel for a harsh, hardscrabble life. Jackson and (particularly) Ricci give raw-nerved, courageous performances, as does Justin Timberlake as Ricci’s boyfriend, nearly as damaged as she is. Ultimately, it’s a film about healing through pain, the way the blues can heal.