Mississippi Grind – Film Review by Frances Winston
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard
In cinemas October 23rd
When down on his luck gambler Gerry (Mendelsohn) meets young and charismatic Curtis (Reynolds) he decides that he is his lucky charm and persuades him to join him on a road trip to a high stakes poker game. Convinced that winning big in the tournament will solve all his problems the pressure is on as he tries to raise the entry fee by gambling en route. Along the way the two men slowly learn what makes each other tick and develop a strange but intriguing friendship of not so opposites.
The cast list for this is a bit misleading. While all the other actors do indeed appear their roles are almost cameos and all the focus is on Reynolds and Mendelsohn. With so few good female roles being written the fact that this movie can’t pass the sexy lamp test (i.e. could the lead actress be replaced by a sexy lamp and would you notice) is somewhat sad. This movie could probably have been made without these token appearances and still been equally as engaging as Reynolds and Mendelsohn have a great rapport as Curtis and Gerry. Reynolds, so often shoe horned into romantic lead roles that he dials in, throws himself into Curtis with gusto and delivers a layered and complex character whose charming façade hides an inner insecurity and sadness. Meanwhile, Mendelsohn as Gerry portrays a man at the end of his tether with aplomb. His desperation positively seeps off the screen and although he is the purveyor of his own downfall you really feel for him and are willing him to stop gambling yet hoping he will land that one big win that will set him back on his feet.
This isn’t a cheerful watch. Even at the end you get the impression that no one has really learned a life lesson or moved on from where they were earlier in the movie. Far from glamorizing gambling it leaves you questioning why anyone would throw away everything for the roll of a dice. As the characters complex backgrounds unfold you get more of a sense of why they are so aimless but still hope that at some point they will have a wakeup call and sort themselves out. Dark and intense this is no cheerful buddy movie. Rather it is a complex exploration of the human psyche and what motivates ordinary people to throw everything away. Hugely engaging with great performances and a snappy script this will affect you long after you leave the cinema.