This, criminally awards overlooked, film from last year Mississippi Grind by the directing team Ryan Boden and Anna Fleck is a beautifully executed throwback to 70s movies. Movies like The Gambler (the writer of which James Toback appears in a small scene as Tony Roundtree), Five Easy Pieces and Robert Altman’s California Split are lovingly invoked.
Mississippi Grind is the story of talented but down on his luck gambler Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) who meets smooth talking drifter Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) one night over a casino card table which leads to an immediate kinship that fate is keeping them together. The duo decide to take a “Huck Finn” road trip from Iowa down the Mississippi River to New Orleans gambling all the way down so they can raise the stake money of $25,000 for a high end card game.
The movies high watermark is the rapport between Mendelson & Reynolds character. They’re people that have lost at the gambling table and in life, we follow them as they learn about each other as they try turn their luck around by chasing rainbows hence the opening shot and numerous references to The Wizard of Oz.
Gerry’s divorced and estranged from his daughter, which stems from his gambling problem, we get a glimpse of the past that his ex-wife Dorothy (Robin Weigert) faced. A prime example of this is the scene where she catches him attempting to steal money from her sock drawer there’s tear filled pain in her eyes. The issues that Curtis faces are to with fear of committing to one lady he wants it but something within him won’t let it happen he’s a drifter without a home relying only on his charms to get by in the world.
The places where they travel and gamble through don’t have the perceived glitz of Las Vegas it’s a grim grey working class world of rundown shops and bars where the only colours come from neon lighting it’s similar to a possible influence of Scorsese’s only sequel The Color of Money.
Mississippi Grind could be seen as a man’s movie but kudos must also be credited to the strong performances of the female roles Alfre Woodard’s Sam her quiet menace in the small diner scene with Gerry, Analeigh Tipton’s magic performing Vanessa and Sienna Miller’s unrecognisable resourceful escort Simone.
As well as the great layered dialogue the music choices perfectly encases the world the guys exist Paul Wines toe tapping “Heels Clickin” and the soundscape within the car of the self help CD for card players adds another level of greek chorus to scenes.
This release from entertainment one contains interviews with Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds who discuss in depth about film & their characters. The disc also contains a very short making of featurette a lot of the extra material sadly it uses overlapping interview footage.
5 / 5
Dir: Ryan Boden, Anna Fleck
Scr: Ryan Boden, Anna Fleck
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Sienna Miller
Prd: Tom Rice, Ben Nearn, Jamie Patricof
DOP: Andrji Parekh
Music: Scott Bomar
Runtime: 148 mins
Mississippi Grind available on DVD and On-Demand now