The journey is the destination.
Star – Ryan Reynolds
Genre – Drama
Run Time – 108 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – USA
Awards – 2 Wins & 3 Nominations
Amazon – £5.00 DVD £19.00 Blue Ray
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At first sight this DVD has that look that it’s going to be a really cool conman flick with lots of twists, grifts and misdirection, Ryan Reynolds (the loud Canadian actor from the BT ads) and Ben Mendesohn dealt into the pack to rev it up some more. It turns out to be something very different.
It’s from director Anna Boden and writer Ryan Fleck and best known for the film Half Nelson with the other Ryan, Gosling, and loosely based on the 1974 film California Split by Robert Altman. It’s a melancholic and earnest low budget indie with the buddy movie feel of The Sting and mystery of Hard Eight. It also a typical Ryan Reynolds movie, his personalized number plate all over this.
• Ryan Reynolds as Curtis
• Ben Mendelsohn as Gerry
• Sienna Miller as Simone
• Analeigh Tipton as Vanessa
• Alfre Woodard as Sam
• Jayson Warner Smith as Clifford
• Robin Weigert as Dorothy
• Marshall Chapman as Cherry
• Jane McNeill as Kate
• Indigo as Dora
• James Toback as Tony Roundtree
• Jason Shaffette as Chuck
Compulsive gambler Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is a frazzled looking guy from a life of throwing dice and tearing up track tickets and so skint again. At a local casino in Dubuque, Iowa, he meets confident and cocky Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), a young drifter come gambler, whilst playing Texas hold 'em on a low stakes table. Curtis wins a decent hand against Gerry, they get chatting and buys Gerry a premium glass of Woodford reserve whisky, and so a friendship begins. Hours later, Gerry runs into Curtis playing darts at a bar and returns the favor buying him a drink. Curtis explains his luck at cards is because he is free and simply doesn't care about winning or losing and just likes to play with no emotional investment. The two get smashed talking nonsense and Gerry waking up on Curtis's couch.
Gerry works in real state and not much good at that either and after another unsuccessful house showing the next morning. Gerry calls Curtis and they hit the dog track. They win big but Gerry is unwilling to walk away, and he quickly blows their winnings. They then drink in a bar and nearly get in a fight over a game of pool and then Gerry mugged in the carpark with a minor knife wound. Curtis later explains to Gerry that “Machu Picchu Time” is approaching, which is the phrase he uses whenever he leaves town, a drifter through-and-through.
The next morning, Gerry meets a waitress called Sam (Alfre Woodard) in a restaurant, where she asks Gerry to repay her the money he owes. If he doesn’t she will call up her buddy to “pay [Gerry] a visit.” He needs money fast. The chance to get that money comes quickly as Curtis proposes a trip down the Mississippi River, where they will gamble at several major cities, and ultimately play at a poker game in New Orleans with a $25,000 buy-in. Curtis agrees to stake Gerry with $2,000 to build up to the 25k, provided that Gerry takes them with his car.
On arrival in St. Louis they meet prostitutes Simone (Sienna Miller) and Vanessa (Analeigh Tipton), friends of Curtiss’s. Gerry wins some good hands on a riverboat casino and then loses the lot at the poker table when his full house is somehow beaten, blowing the $2,000. Gerry has to lie to Curtis, saying that he won $20,000 instead and is inspired to go to Little Rock to make amends with his ex-wife (Jane McNeill) and give her the money he owes. Curtis agrees to come along for the ride as the big game nears and their luck picks up.
Mississippi Grind is exactly that, a watchable but faintly baffling movie that, although well acted, has no real narrative and just ambles hopelessly along like Mississippi River and its two loser characters. It doesn’t seem to adhere to any conventional three-act screenplay structure and so could turn out to be anything. You stay with it expecting a big twist or two or maybe a big reveal or the double-cross sucker punch but it never really happens. All along you really don’t know what the film genre is going to turn out to be. Is it a conman film? Is Gerry the mark, is Curtiss the mark, or is Ryan Reynolds character the devil leading Ben Mendelssohn to his ultimate fete? Who knows.
I do find Reynolds a bit much on screen and a one trick actor actor in that he is too good looking and so doesn’t work hard enough on screen to win you over. He just flashes those charming blue eyes and away he goes. ‘Hey, I’m a Hollywood A-Lister perfect looking guy with it all so deal with it’. I’m sure he is a nice guy in real life but comes across the same in all his movies, why I struggled with Deadpool. He only took the film Buried so he could appear in evey minute of the movie he is that vain.
As I say the film is a real slow ride and never really adds up to something of note, a character study of men addicted to the freedom and fear of being single and alive the best description. Neither character really adds up to much though and you don’t care for them, where the movie falls down. You just can’t see these two guys being on the margins. Mendelsohn is good though and so worth watching for him alone. But as far as a film to catch to sit down to then a no for me and very much three out of five regular indie fayre. It’s gross of a paltry $130,876 proves no one sort it out or even promoted it.
Imdb.com – 6.4/10.0 (12,348 votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 89% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 77% critic’s approval
-Audio Commentary –
Fleck and Boden talk about their movie
Not that many
Apparently it had one.
Guardian –‘It is a watchable if faintly baffling movie, never anything other than well acted, conspicuously without allegiance to any conventional three-act screenplay structure’.
Independent –‘Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn floating down the Mississippi River to gamble and have fun. Should be entertaining, right? Well, it's more a grind than any kind of entertainment.
The Mail –‘.a meandering road movie through the byways of American characters who populate the card rooms and dice tables and racetracks, and an oddball buddy movie built on a chance encounter and an instant kinship between two losers gambling their lives away.
Livewire –‘A loose, funky character study of two guys who can only frame their station as "can't win" and "can't lose," and can't really imagine a life that's anywhere in between’.
Daily Telegraph –‘From its unshowy script on down, Mississippi Grind is content to rumble along as a character piece, keeping its storytelling loose and unpredictable, like a repeat flick of the dice’.
Little White Lies –‘The film earns major points for giving Ben Mendelsohn a proper, meaty character to tussle with, no longer psychotic second banana or madballs deus ex machina’.
New Yorker –‘The actors flaunt craft, the script lays on the folksiness with a trowel, and scenes of local color seem to come straight from a guidebook’.