Director(s): Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Starring: Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds
Written by Gillian Finklea
Unlike most of the flashy movies with a theme of gambling and luck that seem to be the popular plot mode (Runner Runner, 21, and movie involving Oceans and a set number of other people) ‘Mississippi Grind’ is, well, a grind. That’s not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable movie, but it also shows what it’s like to live with a crippling gambling addiction.
Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is a degenerate gambler. He’s had a bad streak for what appears to be a very long time — and his luck does not seem to be improving. Gerry’s day job as a real estate agent seems as unfulfilling as you would expect for someone who is constantly thinking of how his next hand may turn his life around, and he thinks he’s found that winning hand in a charming vagabond named Curtis. He meets Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) at a local poker game, where Curtis admits that he enjoys meeting people more than making money. Curtis has no trouble walking away from a bad situation or, for that matter, a good one. Gerry heads down to Mississippi for a high stakes poker game with his new good luck charm and the two gentlemen meet a few people on their trip through the South, but the crux of the story falls on Mendelsohn and Reynolds, and they are a joy to watch.
Reynolds is a variation of the same character he always plays – a bit of a playboy, charming, funny and easy-going. However, unlike previous movies where I truly believed Reynolds was just doing a variation of his own personality, his portrayal of Curtis has real depth and heart. He’s an easy winner who walks away too often and you are just hoping he finds a way to stick something out until the end. At the very least this movie is proof that ‘Deadpool’ is not a Reynolds acting fluke and he can be quite great when he wants to be.
This is also a chance to get on the Ben Mendelsohn bandwagon. If you missed him in ‘Bloodline’ or ‘Animal Kingdom’, get to know this great Australian actor before he pops up everywhere, including ‘Ready Player One’ and Star Wars spin-off ‘Rogue One’. Mendelsohn’s Gerry has a crippling addiction, causing him to make the most selfish and heartbreaking choices – but you can help but root for him.
The concept of the movie is simple: when should you walk away and when should you stick it out? The ending may be too ambiguous for some, but it left me with a feeling of hope. We find out that Gerry and Curtis have very different ways of dealing with success and failures, but in the end they are two decent guys who are just trying their luck. A rather limited release in theatres last year means you may not have had the chance to catch this, but ‘Mississippi Grind’ is well worth the gamble if you can track down the DVD.