Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is a down on his luck gambler looking for a big win to solve his problems. When he meets the charming Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) who seems to care more about the game than winning, Gerry sees a way out of debt. The trouble is that old habits die hard and while Curtis may seem blasé about the whole affair, he is just as addicted as Gerry.
For those looking for a slick quick flick about gambling and winning, perhaps it is best to look away from Mississippi Grind now. The film is more an odd couple movie than one about those who play to win, and about the addictions that two men face in their lives.
Ben Mendelsohn takes a step away from the bad guy roles he has become known for, making Gerry a relatable every man who is smart and charming, even as he is gambling away his life. Mendelsohn allows Gerry to be the heart and soul of the film and as his story is slowly revealed, the audience cannot help but root for this scruffy underdog. Ryan Reynolds brings some gloss to Mississippi Grind; Curtis is a character who seems to have it all sorted out, but once we begin to scratch the surface, the tragedy of the character is revealed. Sienna Miller has a small role as a hokker with a heart of gold and former America’s Next Top Model contestant Analeigh Tipton holds her own on screen.
Screenwriters Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck have made Mississippi Grind a film as much about the gambling as the troubles it causes, making both the lead characters addicts and conmen in their own way. The dialogue for the film is smart and warm, and even though there is a lot to learn about the characters, the exposition feels natural to the plot. There are times however, when it seems that the film is dragged out for the sake of wrapping up the characters stories, particularly in the final few minutes.
As directors, Boden and Fleck have created a slow burning film that is as much about the relationships between the characters as it is about the gambling. The central performances from Mendelsohn and Reynolds are strong and engaging, and the chemistry between the two actors is gentle and warm. That said, there are times when the pacing slows to a sluggish pace and, although it is entertaining to spend time in the company of these characters, there are times when the film could have benefitted from some faster pacing.
In all, Mississippi Grind is a film about two strangers brought together by the addictions arising from their love of gambling. Those expecting a slick and tightly paced movie will be disappointed, but there is plenty to enjoy here, with Mendelsohn and Reynolds on great form, and an engaging story being told. It’s just a shame the film struggleswith pacing from time to time.