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Mississippi Grind - Review

Mississippi Grind

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

RYAN Fleck and Anna Boden have dealt another character based gem with gambling drama Mississippi Grind.

Boasting two excellent performances from Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds, the film functions as both a richly absorbing road movie and a gripping addiction drama that places its biggest emphasis on character.

Mendelsohn plays down on his luck gambler Gerry, who is about to be swallowed up by his habit, but whose luck begins to change after he meets the young, charismatic Curtis (Reynolds).

When Gerry convinces his new lucky charm to hit the road with him, towards a legendary high stakes poker game in New Orleans, an intriguing bond develops between the two men that could change their fortunes forever.

As with their previous films, Half Nelson, Sugar and even It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, Fleck and Boden take a familiar genre and place their own distinct identity upon it.

In other words, while you may think you know what you’re going to get from a road movie about two gamblers, and to an extent do, there’s also plenty of surprises along the way, most of which stem from learning about the characters’ motivations.

And while there are some tense gambling moments that hinge on the turn of a card like, say, The Gambler or Rounders, Mississippi Grind isn’t really interested in toying with audiences in that way.

Rather, it’s the things that have brought Gerry and Curtis to this point in their lives that prove the most intriguing to unravel… and even then, answers aren’t presented in a pat fashion, or even destined for a Hollywood-style conclusion. Audiences are invited to drop in on a pair of lives during a transitional point and glean what they can before forming their own conclusions about what may lie further down the road for both men.

In doing this, Fleck and Boden also provide wonderful platforms for their two leading men. It’s great to see Mendelsohn not only taking centre stage but also easing off the psycho (for which he is most famous). Gerry may be flawed and, at times, downright unlikeable, but there’s a real person inside; someone acting from desperation and self-loathing at times, but who retains an endearing quality that still makes his journey worth rooting for.

Reynolds, too, revels in a role that’s both tailor-made for his particular brand of free-flowing charisma, but which also enables him to tap into feelings of dejection and disappointment at his own failings and fallibility (both of which have been informed by a difficult past).

Hence, once we bid farewell to these two richly drawn players, it’s the characters – more than the games – you’ll remember. And they will be remembered with a great deal of affection… much like this superb film as a whole.

Watch the trailer

Certificate: 15
Running time: 108mins
UK Release Date: October 23, 2015