Prayer Focus
Click here to watch THE HOPE on-line!
Movie Review

Black Snake Moan

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, language, some violence and drug use

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez

Extremely Offensive
Add to your list?
View your list
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Drama, Romance
1 hr. 55 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 2, 2007 (1,200 theaters)
Copyright, Paramount Vantage
Copyright, Paramount Vantage
Copyright, Paramount Vantage

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Copyright, Paramount Vantage
Copyright, Paramount Vantage
Copyright, Paramount Vantage
Copyright, Paramount Vantage

What are the consequences of racial prejudice and false beliefs about the origin of races? Answer

Racism, Racial Issues and Christianity
Get biblical answers to racial hot-topics. Where did the races come from? How did skin color come about? Why is it important to have a biblical foundation for such issues?
Copyright, Paramount Vantage
Copyright, Paramount Vantage

How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer

If God forgives me every time I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Answer

Copyright, Paramount Vantage

I think I was sexually abused, but I’m not sure. What is sexual abuse, and what can I do to stop the trauma I am facing now? Answer

Stories of sexual abuse

Copyright, Paramount Vantage
Relevant Issues
Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.

Does God feel our pain? Answer

What kind of world would you create? Answer

Featuring: Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, John Cothran Jr., Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson, Michael Raymond-James
Director: Craig Brewer
Producer: John Singleton, Stephanie Allain, Craig Brewer
Distributor: Paramount Vantage

“Everything is hotter down South.”

I am going to be completely honest with you all here, “Black Snake Moan” is simply not a film that Christian men need to be seeing. Nor is it one that Christian women will want their men seeing. In fact, perhaps it would have been better for a woman to have reviewed it, instead of me subjecting myself to the constant barrage of sexual images found in the film. I have to admit, I felt a little sleazy in the theater, surround mostly by adult men by themselves, and likely would have left were it not for the fact that as a reviewer, I just have to stick it out till the end. So, what follows is my review, based on the film’s merits, and my caution, based on the film’s content.

Samuel L. Jackson plays Lazarus, a blues musician struggling to cope with the betrayal of his wife, who has run off with his brother. He is a church-going man with a self-acknowledged bad streak that he is trying his hardest not to indulge. He minds his own business in his home in the woods, and for the most part is bothered by no one. One day, while taking his trash out to the dumpster on the main road, he finds a woman badly beaten on the side of the road, wearing little more than underwear. He knows he should help, but also knows that his past run-ins with the law would cause the police to be awfully suspicious if he walked into the police station carrying the beaten, half-naked body of a white girl.

So, he takes her into his home, places her on the couch, and tries to nurse her back to health. He runs into town to pick up some things to take care of her, but also describes the girl to a local to see if they might know who she is, without telling them how he knows her or that she is at his home. He finds out her name is Rae (Christina Ricci), and that she is quite familiar to the many men throughout the town. Her boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake) left town to join the military, and less than two hours after he was gone, she was in bed with another man. Lazarus is disgusted to hear this, and takes it on himself to cure her of her sinful ways. He starts this by chaining her up in his house, hoping that he will be able to talk some sense into her, before her unbridled lusts wind up killing her.

As strange a movie as this truly is, and for how strange it certainly probably read on script, Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci have to be commended for the risks they both take frequently in films, but most notably here. Honestly, there isn’t anyone else I could have imagined in either role. Both performers are known for taking chances, and here they lay themselves open to something completely original, and quite controversial. Both of their performances are outstanding, each so different and yet so alike, as they play two people wounded by others and by the world, and seeking solace anywhere they can find it. Jackson even sings the blues for us a few times towards the end of the film, and surprises us with his impressive talents in that arena, as well. From a technical standpoint, “Black Snake Moan” is a bizarre, totally original film that resonates because it is so unflinchingly real in its observations on pain and the road to redemption.

But, putting aside all that, it isn’t a film for Christian audiences. I have said earlier, Christian men viewing this film will be bombarded by sexual images, situations, and discussions that they truly could do without. Rae spends most of the movie in very little clothing that leaves nothing to the imagination. We see nudity as well, in frequent sex scenes throughout; in fact, the very first scene of the film features her and her boyfriend having sex. There are also a few strange and disturbing scenes where Rae is overcome with lust and passion, and writhes on the ground like a woman possessed.

The language in the film is constant and very strong. There are many profane references, as well as offensive uses of the Lord’s name. Even the pastor in the film (who I will discuss in a moment) profanes God’s name, to which Lazarus reminds him that he might not want to be doing that considering his line of work. There is also explicit sexual dialogue in the film. The pastor in the film uses as much language as the rest of the cast, and is as frequent a guest at the local bar as Lazarus once was. He even has the opportunity to share the saving power of Jesus Christ to Rae, and to explain to her the beauty of grace and forgiveness, but he winds up talking about how he has trouble believing some of that stuff anyway.

This is the most disappointing scene in the film. Rae is beginning to see her struggles for what they are, and understands that what she does is wrong, but explains to the pastor that the idea of Jesus forgiving all sins is simply ludicrous, She doesn’t say this to blaspheme, she simply cannot see how God could wipe a person’s slate clean when they have done so many wrong things. I know there are so many people in the world who have to be wondering the same thing, even people in situations much like hers—people who have been shamed and humiliated by someone when they were young, and look to anything and anyone to hide their embarrassment and guilt over something they couldn’t control. I wanted to reach out to her and explain that the beauty of grace and forgiveness lies in the blood Christ shed to set us free from the sins we feel so repulsed by, and are sure repulse God even more. But, the advice and direction she gets is standard fare for movies like this, but I honestly wasn’t expecting more than that, I was just a little discouraged.

Please, fellow Christian men, do not see this movie. Yes, there is a powerful story of redemption underneath it all, but not one worth sacrificing your mental purity for.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive—While there are mature themes in this movie, the overall message is very positive, and is a very well made movie. It is a story of redemption, that is really quite wonderful. Christina Ricci’s charcter is a wretched sinner, and we do get to witness her sin. But due to the care of Sam Jackson’s character, both through music and with the help of God, he reforms her.

This is a wonderful tale of redemption, but due to some mature content, it’s better suited for older audiences. I wouldn’t reccomend this movie to kids under 16, but for older teens, who can handle thoughtful movies and learn from them, this is a great, thought-provoking movie.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—John Lewis, age 45
Positive—This movie is not for anyone who struggles with sexual purity by any means. HOWEVER, it is an awesomely portrayed movie about the second chances God gives to people who have messed up (and third, fourth, fifth, and sixth chances). I think what made the movie so poignant is the how understandable the main girl, Rae’s, plight really was. Someone who had been innocently hurt by sin as a child that was then the perpetrator of numerous sexual sins as an adult and thusly written off by an unforgiving society could have a second chance in God’s eyes. NONE of us deserve salvation but I think we as Christians have fallen short by reminding some more than others that they are “undeserving.” I loved how this movied showed that no matter how hard a person has fallen or who’s fault it was, that grace can be found. (Although it didn’t explicitly say through Christ unfortunately, there was some discussion about His grace and about God throughout the movie. I think they tried the best they could knowing how crankypants and antagonistic Hollywood can be toward Christian themes.) So if you can’t take language, nudity, abuse (i.e. real life issues that sin causes), etc., then stay away from this movie, definitely. Otherwise, go see an impactful movie that can perhaps give someone else who needs it hope for a second chance.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4½
—Sharon H., age 23
Positive—“Black Snake Moan” has quickly become one of my favorite movies, since I watched it two days ago. It’s excellent and really has some important and uplifting messages to say about God, family, and love. I know one wouldn’t expect this with the previews, but they don’t reflect the movie at all. True, the movie does have nudity, language, and some sexual scenes in it, and a few of them are gratuitous. But after watching the whole film, I felt closer to God than I ever have after watching a movie from Hollywood. The one scene that the reviewer mentioned in his review actually left me in tears, as R.L. told Rae about God’s ability to forgive her, and the scene where she plays “This Little Light of Mine” was touching, as well. If you’re an adult, and can handle nudity, language, and portrayals of Christians that aren’t squeaky clean (Christians aren’t squeaky clean anyway, that’s the point), and you want to see a movie about the healing process two people can have on each other, and how God is important to one’s life, this one of the best movies to watch.
My Ratings: Offensive / 5
—Aaron Ploof, age 18
Positive—I agree that this movie was hard to watch; I felt we viewers were being dragged right down into the pit with the characters, but I was determined to see it through and watched it as a saved person. In the process, I remembered what my life was like before I was saved—I could not hear words like “blood of Christ,” because I couldn’t relate. But I was desperate and eventually Billy Graham’s preaching about Jesus in a movie met my need and I opened the door of my life to Him. When Rae speaks to the pastor and he shares his faith on the level where she’d relate (not where we’d like it to begin as believers, I agree), I didn’t see that as the end of the conversation. It was just the beginning of a sound and godly relationship where she accepted him into her life as one who wasn’t going to pressure her but who had what she needed. I felt RL was real and that he had made a connection with Rae so that she would come back to him for counseling and friendship in the future. I am confident that she would be saved because of the selfless acts of the other Christians in this movie who accepted her unconditionally and without exploitation. I loved the fact that blacks of faith did not discriminate but went the extra mile for her. This is truly an example of the Good Samaritan played out in our day.

The contrast between the saved-by-grace character singing There is a Balm in Gilead with what was happening to Rae in the grocery store at the same time was downright painful—pure peace, joy, and beauty in the freedom Christ contrasted with Rae’s total deprivation and rejection and the complete anguish of her soul. My heart was breaking for this girl. She clearly demonstrates what it means to be a slave of sin. But God! He seeks to save the lost and she’s in the right place for that surrounded by Christians. Laz was terrific throughout. He had no pretense, but had a solid faith which was evident in how he didn’t misuse Rae when she pressed him to. As I watched their relationship grow into father/daughter love, I was encouraged. Our faith is truly the good news for all human beings in bondage. Although a man of passion, Laz was strong in the Lord and even in his own despair of loss caused by the unfaithfulness of his wife, he could minister to her wounds, both physical and spiritual. I was really impressed by this redemption story and haven’t stopped thinking about it. The writer has given so many comparisons and contrasts that prompt deeper thought.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 5
—Diane Kulkarni, age 61
Positive—I both agree and disagree strongly with the review of this film. I agree with the artistic analysis (I think the movie was among the most original I had seen in awhile and was thoroughly pleased with the performances of both Ricci and Jackson). However, I disagree with the assumption that Christians should avoid this movie. I’m particularly troubled by the last statement made by the reviewer that the redemptive message was outweighed by the “sacrifice” of “mental purity.” This movie is an honest redemption story. It is an interesting character of redemption that it often takes place in situations that might offend “mental purity.” Why? Because Christ came for the sick not the well, the lost not the found. And where do we find the lost? In the midst of being lost. In an alley. In a brothel. Half strung out and completely desperate. What good is our mental purity if it keeps us from going to suffering people where they are?
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Nick, age 26
Positive—Though this film is not for the “Little House on the Prairie”-types, I thought that it was a wonderful story. Being an adult female, I had not thought about the reaction that males may have had from watching it, so, I concede that you would be truly able to see how wonderful a story it is as long as you’re a mature Christian who would not get hung up on a lot of skin showing. The two main characters are so talented. It was refreshing to me to see a film like this, willing to portray a message where sinners actually live. Its core is about love and our ability to love our neighbors as ourselves, no matter who they are or what they’ve done, and at the same time give us a snapshot of how some people are brought up, knowing only a life filled with sin and pain. I consider this to be one of the most meaningful movies that I’ve seen.
My Ratings: Average / 5
—Linda, age 44
Negative—This movie borderlines on porn. The language in needlessly loaded with extreme vulgar language. Having a female run around in her panties and a skimpy blouse practically throughout the entire movie and showing closeup shots of her private areas, including frontal nudity is clearly ungodly. This movie continues the humanistic attempts of showing Christians, including preachers engaging in vulgar language, smoking, drinking, etc., rather than striving to live according to God’s Word. Beware! This movie in not for Christians.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 2
—Gary, age 64
Negative—Wives and girlfriend hide your guys eyes! Because once you turn this movie on he’s going to get more than an eyefull. I watched this movie with a girlfriend of mine and since I knew it was rated R for nudity and sexuality my husband did not watch. The movie opens with partial nudity and a sex scene. The last time I had seen so much nudity was in “Basic Instinct 2.” I feel the movie is exteremly degrading to woman as she is chained up and shown prancing around nude or barely dressed (panties and a small tank with no bra) through most of the movie. The producers try to add somewhat of a story line to this movie for those who want to see more than flesh, but fail to deliver. They show the girl who is a sex addict gets cured, but don’t show much of how. This Christian man trying to help the girl (played by Samuel L. Jackson) didn’t bring her to church. Didn’t tell her about God’s love. Diddn’t even pray for her. Really it just shows he chained her up and fed her. OK so he also didn’t rape her as she expected and together they sang this little light of mine… wow. I would have turned the movie off had my friend not wanted to continue. I would say pass on this movie.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3½
—Christina, age 24
Negative—It’s not often I give a movie a negative review. “Black Snake Moan,” albeit it did have a good theme of forgiveness and redemption, was just too soured in language, sex, and other debauchery. Whatever message of Jesus the protagonist (Jackson) or his preacher friend tried to convey was lost in the mire of strong and excrutiatingly pervasive language. Egad. I’ll never be able to sit through this film again, and I’m not quite sure how I willed myself to stay in it the first time. Was I hoping it would lighten up? Well, it didn’t, so spare yourself and your wallet a beating.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Jacob Keenum, age 21
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—With human trafficking and slavery being a huge issue today, showing a man chaining up a women, (the man being black and the woman white, you wonder if this isn’t intentional reverse discrimination) one who is almost naked, is about the most distasteful thing you can put in a movie. This is a very serious matter, one that you cannot try to portray as “entertainment,” it doesn’t work.

It’s dehumanizing and an insult to God’s creation, I don’t care what moral you could possibly pull out of it, it’s not worth the filth you have to expose yourself to. Film quality is irrelevant at this point too. Let’s love God and His creation and hate the things that tarnish it and destroy it! We can find better entertainment that is edifying! I’ve read the reviews and talked at length with a friend who saw it, so I will not be seeing it myself.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
—Jason, age 32