Trust me, you’ll get it.
Found lying on the side of the road, beaten and nearly dead, is Rae (Christina Ricci), a 22-year-old who has developed a reputation around town for having an insatiable “itch” for sex. Her rescuer is Lazarus (Samuel L Jackson), an ex-blues guitarist who has grown used to life’s relentless strains of trouble and sorrow. Lazarus then ties Rae up by a chain in order to “heal her of her sins”.
Just by reading that plot and looking at that effed up poster to the right, you know you’re in for a real bizarre-o flick from the mind of writer/director Craig Brewer, who also did a favorite of mine named ‘Hustle & Flow’. This isn’t quite on-par with that one, but it still works if you like a white guy making a movie about black people music.
What Brewer does perfectly here is that he captures the time and setting perfectly with a look that sets the tone for this film right away. It’s dirty, sweaty, gritty, and just really cool where you can tell that this is a film-maker that knows how to make a setting feel authentic even if the story itself may be a little too far-fetched for its own right. The soundtrack that also goes along with the setting too is perfect with a bunch of great growls and howls of blues music that not only fits perfectly with the tone of this film but also the story as well as these are hurt and tortured people right here and blues music is the one genre where all of these sad people can just let it all out and make it seem more like its poetry rather than just a person whining their asses of. Brewer did a great job with the sweat and hip-hop in ‘Hustle’ and he did a great job as well with the sweat and blues here.
The problem that I feel like this film ran into was the fact that it doesn’t have a plot that you can necessarily believe considering how weird it is. Almost a little too weird really. The whole film is used as some metaphor even though we have this little white-girl chained up to a radiator who gets horny with just about any sound of a man’s voice and starts to hear this “hissing” sound in her head every time. I couldn’t really connect myself to any emotional territory considering that’s where this flick was going and I think instead of trying his hardest to make this film play-out seriously and a little bit dramatic, he should have at least tried to get some real fun out of it and realize that it’s a weird story in it’s own right.
I think that with ‘Hustle’ you have a story that not many people can relate to but just the whole message about putting your past behind you and looking past that to reach to the top, is very inspirational and what a true under-dog story is all about. Here though, it was a little too hard to honestly relate to anything here unless you are a young and white female slut or an old and black blues musician that plays at all of these random times for no reason. It also got a little too annoying with all of the constant Biblical references they had spewing around in this flick but it was still reasonable considering the time and place they were in.
When it comes to the acting though, that’s where this film really works. Samuel L. Jackson is great as Lazarus, giving us this old-folk who doesn’t take shit from anyone and is doing a very weird and bad thing, but you know deep-down inside that he is not a bad man o matter who looks at him like that. Jackson also does a great job when it comes to him jamming out to the blues songs considering that it is him playing and he just looks like he’s feeling the music through his soul the whole time. Christina Ricci is also very impressive as Rae, a chick I thought I was going to hate the whole time but after awhile started to grow on me. Ricci is half-naked the whole time but that actually works in her advantage and gives her character, Rae, some real feeling of pity that we feel towards her. Both are great together and even though the plot may not seem so believable, they still do and give great performances for these two character.
Let’s not also forget to mention that Justin Timberlake himself has a little side performance as Rae’s solider lover, Ronnie, who isn’t annoying or bothersome in any way but then again he isn’t in the film all that much, so there isn’t a whole lot he could have done to annoy me in the first place.
Consensus: Even though its plot is very outlandish and unbelievable, the inspired and detailed direction from Brewer, and the great lead performances from Jackson and Ricci make this film work in ways that I couldn’t have possibly imagined in the first place.