Gerry is a talented but down-on-his-luck gambler whose fortunes begin to change when he meets Curtis, a younger, highly charismatic poker player. The two strike up an immediate friendship and Gerry quickly persuades his new friend to accompany him on a road trip to a legendary high stakes poker game in New Orleans. As they make their way down the Mississippi River, Gerry and Curtis manage to find themselves in just about every bar, racetrack, casino, and pool hall they can find, experiencing both incredible highs and dispiriting lows, but ultimately forging a deep and genuine bond that will stay with them long after their adventure is over.
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★★★★ review by maxwill on Letterboxd
I like stories of people that are kinda down and out. Low-lifes, not to put it too harshly, but still good and well-meaning people. And when you have two terrific actors that can not only pull their own weight but work beautifully off one another, you're gonna find yourself having a damn good time watching this film.
A very chill, bluesy kinda movie. I enjoyed it quite a bit. A lot, in fact.
★★★★ review by Travis Lytle on Letterboxd
Focusing on the pain behind the eyes of its characters, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's "Mississippi Grind" is an engaging and rewarding drama about two gamblers drawn to each other when each's luck wanes. More character study and observation of friendship than plot-driven journey into small-time gaming, the film is a textured piece of work elevated by the sturdy performances of its leads and its accessible emotions.
Starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn, "Mississippi Grind" finds the two beginning a friendship at a gaming table before offering an examination of what makes each man tick. One is a melancholy wanderer whose choices have left him bereft of necessary love, while the other is an energetic charmer finding his way. The two form both sides of coin that drives the film's drama through a tension-rife world where luck is a deciding and potentially destructive factor.
Fleck and Boden deliver the story in a way where the audience feels the weight and sorrow carried by each character and, then, revels in their victories. With a clean focus on each man that slowly reveals character and motivation, the directors allow the audience to make its own judgments of the men. The film, itself, does not dictate any sort of morality, as that morality is in the eye of each beholding viewer.
The production does not work to capture a glitzy world of casinos; instead, the lower-rent landscape of river boats and just-off-the-interstate gambling palaces adorns the steady-paced work. The look reflects its characters' reality by exhibiting notes of grit, polish, seediness, and safety.
Reynolds is outstanding in a role the requires an accent and broken nose and allows him to push down any natural charm, resulting in world-weary appeal. Mendelsohn, however, is the film's emotional center, creating a character trapped in a life of addiction. His eyes consistently communicate the sadness of his past and the worry of his present.
"Mississippi Grind," with its subtle dramatic strengths and stand-out lead cast, is a well-built and quietly moving film. Its thematic center consistently clear, the drama sneaks up on its audience and leaves it with an experience that is rich, sad, and, ultimately, affirming.
★★★★ review by Blain LaMotta on Letterboxd
Is there anything Ben Mendelsohn can't do? He embodies each of his characters so thoroughly, that every creative decision he makes feels like the right one in every moment he is on screen. Truly one of the finest screen actors working today. Even someone like Ryan Reynolds knows he has to up his game when around him, because this is some of the best acting Reynolds has done. His charisma and effortless rapport with Mendelsohn make this a dual character study of sorts between two lovable losers that keeps on unearthing surprising new qualities the further we reach our anti-destination, for the journey is clearly the end game here. The flavorful locales we visit along the way builds an atmosphere and gritty realism thanks to the grounded direction by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden. Calling this an addiction drama is way too reductive, this is cinema about what it means to be human. Which is exactly what the essence of cinema should be. So yeah, this was a treat.
★★★★ review by Calib McBolts on Letterboxd
Mississippi Grind is a severely underrated film. It's an Alexander Payne-esque exploration of addiction and friendship. It's as poignantly funny as it is profoundly depressing. Ryan Reynolds is likeable and charismatic while Ben Mendelsohn — who seems to channel young Dustin Hoffman, and mid-life Al Pacino — delivers one of the best male lead performances of this decade. The dialogue rings true, the situations are authentically drawn, and the relationship between these two men is deeply affecting. While some might argue that this film is too sad, or hard to connect to because the two leads are sleazebags, or they simply might find it unbearably boring, I for one thought it was riveting stuff. More people need to check this out.
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★★★★ review by Patrick Jensen on Letterboxd
Since I'm going to watch Deadpool 2 later today, I decided to watch a film that could show a different side of Ryan Reynolds. What I got instead was a captivating character study with a great atmosphere, conveyed through its cinematography and soundtrack. Ryan Reynolds is good here, but this is Ben Mendelsohn's show. He truly excels as the down-on-his-luck gambler, who just can't catch a break. The first half of the film is a bit too slow-paced for my liking, but the film thankfully gets a more natural flow in its second half. The various explorations Gerry's personal life could also become a bit too much at times, and I do think the film should have focused a bit more on his relationship with his daughter, rather than the people he owed money to.
Overall, a great low-key film that I highly recommend, even though I think it might not fall into everyone's taste.
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