It may be hard out there for a pimp, but it ain't too hard for a writer-director to make a movie whose marketing hinges on the lurid spectacle of Samuel L. Jackson pulling a half-naked Christina Ricci around on a chain. As in his Hustle & Flow, Craig Brewer only allows himself so much nasty fun before it's time to issue his trick-turners their hard-earned redemption: Jackson's chain-yankin' Lazarus learns to temper his righteous indignation; Ricci's Rae, she of the belly-baring Confederate flag tee and unclean panties, puts on some decent clothes and even reckons she might get hitched; the filmmaker begins to direct his grindhouse fantasy of femaleenslavement as if it were Our Town. For Lazarus (or Brewer), scrubbing this bad girl'ssoul means not subjecting her to slavery so much as getting her to work in the kitchen, to sing "This Little Light of Mine" (no kidding), to appreciate a talking blues sermon about the hellfire horrors of abortion. Black Snake Moan never promised to be boring, but by God, it is. After his camera has had its fill of ogling Rae, Brewer turns out to have nothing up his sleeve, nothing in his pants, only a little on his mind, and none of it, amazingly, to do with race.
Justin Timberlake helps get Ricci back.
Opens at Varsity and other theaters, Fri., March 2. Rated R. 116 minutes.