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Review - Mississippi Grind

By midlandsmovies, Oct 25 2015 12:27PM

Mississippi Grind (2015) Dir. Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Along with The Gambler (Mark Wahlberg) and Wild Card (Jason Statham) comes the third card-based movie I’ve seen this year. Set amongst the floating riverboats of the Deep South, we follow down on his luck (what else) Gerry who meets with young buck Curtis in an attempt to take home some much needed winnings.

Gerry is brilliantly portrayed by Ben Mendelsohn (Dark Knight Rises, Killing Them Softly, The Place Beyond the Pines) as a boozy layabout working cheap casinos before suave Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) smooth talks his way into his life as a fellow gambler. The strange attraction develops throughout the film as the characters’ hang-ups are hidden from each other. Reynolds is typical with his wise-ass smarts but again (along with Voices and Woman in Gold) is choosing his films much more carefully in recent months and is all the better for it.

Low key and intimate, the film follows the ordeals of both men and their friendship based on (apparent) trust but Gerry’s uncontrollable bets push him further into debt and subsequently into trouble. As they travel to a big buy-in tournament, they hit up casinos along the way but the film focuses much more on the incidents outside the casino – meeting up with old flames, clandestine wagers and car conversations on the road.

Sound-tracking the film are a host of excellent traditional blues and honky-tonk tracks as well as Memphis musician Scott Bomar who also composed a score for the swampy Black Snake Moan (2007).

As Mendelsohn loses further sports bets, an unknowing Reynolds enjoys the trip with ladies and dancing but Gerry’s worse instincts get the better of him time and time again and is unwilling to give up when he should. Mendelsohn battles his demons throughout in a great performance opposite a solid and self-assured Reynolds. Gerry’s poker-based “tells” are seen on and off the table as they reflect his two faces – the confident card player and the depressed/addicted loser.

Gerry’s believability is key to the film’s success whilst Ryan’s consistent optimism of looking for the good in people appears naive but offers a semblance of hope. Curtis is more forgiving than Gerry’s debtors but without any punishment or assistance, Gerry’s errors compound and the two actors play well against each other in equally depressing scenes together and when alone.

Measured and meaningful, this accomplished film is a masculine meditation on addiction, exes and excuses as the two men mosey on down to Mississippi to find money at the end of the rainbow but mostly discover a melancholic misery amongst a memorable finish.

7/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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