Mississippi Grind, directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, tells the story of Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn), a talented but debt-ridden poker player. Enter Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), a charming, charismatic traveler who plays for fun and strikes up an unlikely friendship with Gerry after discovering he might be the troubled gamblers lucky charm.
Reynolds and Mendelsohn fit together beautifully on screen, flowing around each other to share the limelight. Yet, hands down the best thing about Boden and Fleck’s fourth film is an inspired turn from rising star Ben Mendelsohn, who carries the weight of the feature almost single-handed. Now, that’s not to say Reynolds isn’t great, because he is, and his sense of humour is put to better use here than in most of his body of work, arguably because this is the most tender we’ve seen him in ages. Fleck and Boden have, however, articulated a perfect embodiment of addiction and redemption in Gerry.
Thankfully, Mississippi Grind doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It doesn’t go Ocean’s 11 and never once strides boldly into thriller territory, which it could have easily done and popped its own bubble. Instead it embraces its platform as an intimate character study, thus impressing with the pacing and visual open-minded ness of a travel film. Like its characters, it floats along, learning as it unfolds. Unfortunately there’s just not enough going on to pull the film to the next level in terms of interest. Gerry’s involvement with Alfre Woodard’s kindly but intimidating gangster/landlord (it’s never explicitly said) is one of the most intriguing drives early on, but winds up going nowhere. There would have been a way to involve her without risking the film’s laid back vibe, if only to see Mendelsohn sweat some more.
A solid and enjoyable feature with a terrific turn from a growing, and entirely deserving, star. Ben Mendelsohn cements his as a path destined for great and awards-strewn endeavours.
Dir: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
Stars: Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller, Alfre Woodard