Saturday, August 18, 2007

Black Snake Moan

I was curious about the premise of this movie: A black man, living alone in the country, finds a young, white girl unconscious on the road near his home. He takes her in and nurses her back to health, but, discerning her compulsion to go in search of drugs and/or sex, he chains her up so he can cure her! Sounded crazy enough to be interesting, but Black Snake Moan was deeper and more satisfying than I anticipated.

Take Samuel Jackson's character, Lazarus. The name itself is significant. He has been killed by the pain of his wife leaving him for his little brother. He is a believer, reads the Bible, but has his flaws. He sees his rescuing Rae as a God-given mission: "God seen fit to put you in my path and I aim to cure you of your wickedness." She's not exactly a willing subject. First she thinks she can offer sexual favors to get what she wants (a tactic that usually works for her). Then she tries to run away--but the chain won't move and neither will Lazarus. He definitely sees her plight as spiritual warfare: "You got a sickness. . . . Now we gonna break the hold the devil got on you."

There's no dramatic conversion scene, no exorcism, no presentation of the gospel. But there's plenty of redemption and probably some soul-saving here. Lazarus calls his pastor and friend to come talk with Rae. Like many non-Christians, she thinks she's not good enough to come to God. She doesn't understand his unconditional love and forgiveness: "You can't go around hurting people and then just say you're sorry and it all gets washed away. What would heaven want people like that?" The pastor's answer is less than satisfactory--he talks about looking for your piece of heaven here--but I took it to mean seeking the joy of the Lord in this life as a taste of heaven to come. She takes this message to heart, and they all live happily ever after.

If Billy Graham films had cussing preachers, hard-drinking reformers, and nymphomaniac drug addicts, this could be one. As good a story of a changed life as I remember seeing for a while.

Bottom line, 3 1/2 stars.

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