Mississippi Grind

Year: 2015
Production Co: Sycamore Pictures
Director: Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck
Writer: Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck
Cast: Ben Mendelsohn, Ryan Reynolds, Alfre Woodward, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton

There's one big problem that trips Mississippi Grind up, and it's more with the audience than the movie.

The story of two strangers and gamblers who fall in with each other and decide to casino-hop down the titular river to make their fortune sounds like a classic heist or crime thriller set-up.

Mississippi Grind isn't that film, but it doesn't help that Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) and Curtis (Ryan Reynolds) seem to have agendas aplenty – many of them hidden from each other. You spend the whole film just waiting for a big reveal that makes all the strange asides fall into place (such as Curtis making a foolhardy bet against some basketball-playing heavies and getting beaten up as a result).

Gerry is down on his luck when he meets the chatty but enigmatic Curtis in a poker game, the latter showing the best command over bluffing and reading players' tells Gerry's ever seen.

They keep crossing paths – the first thing that makes you think Curtis is setting Gerry up for a sting – but Gerry has such unbelievable luck with the younger man around, so he suggests they travel downriver all the way to New Orleans and clean up at the riverboat casinos on the way thanks to his new lucky charm.

The actual trip and the vagaries of luck in money and love starts to peel back the layers of each man and where he's come from, but not enough to make you as interested in Gerry and Curtis as you feel you should be.

There's also the connection you're waiting for throughout the movie that never comes to a head in a way you expect, making them seem as disconnected from each other as they are partners.

The story also sets up a lot of threads it seems to lose interest or confidence in. You're sure it's about to end no less than four times before it goes on to introduce another development – often clumsily so.

Thankfully both Mendelsohn and Reynolds are both extremely watchable screen presences. The latter is much more suited to smaller, edgier material like this than blockbusters. Even with his good looks he's a natural comic and it'll be really interesting to see what he does with Deadpoool.

Mendelsohn's rise in Hollywood after decades of regional stardom in his native Australia is also continuing, and work like this is a great primer to see his evolution as a star before Star Wars: Rogue One propels him into the Hollywood stratosphere.

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