Dir: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (2015)
Ben Mendolsohn and Ryan Reynolds have a fantastic chemistry in the old school 70s influenced touring, dice happy Mississippi Grind. Half Nelson writers and directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck wrangle Robert Altman’s California Split and George Roy Hill‘s The Sting into a seriously enjoyable cross country jaunt with a down and outer and his new found lucky charm.
Compulsive card player / track hound / pool shark , Gerry (the always brilliant and criminally underrated Mendolsohn) is taken by the charismatic Curtis (a never better Reynolds) at a late night poker session. Mendolsohn’s hang-dog face is half admiration, half jealousy and Reynold’s good looking walking four leaf clover could come genuine or with a touch of the grift. Boden and Fleck waste no time as the boozed up pair hatch a drive down the Mississippi river to hit and gamble with the major players before a huge pot game in New Orleans.
The riff heavy blues soundtrack should smack of cliche as the top lane black top stretches out before them, but that is exactly what a pair like this would blast on this one last chance journey. Gerry’s debts are weighing heavy on him; An ex wife and a child, an angry loan shark (Alfre Woodard) a painful stab wound from a late night parking lot altercation press down on him but as is usually the case the Aussie actor runs away with the entire film. Sienna Miller and Analeigh Tipton are sadly wasted with the directors hedging their bets on the compulsive men.
It’s pretty light weight fun; And bar an incredible visit to Gerry’s ex-wife and a misjudged familiar scene with Curtis’ mother Mississippi Grind works best that way. It never panders or judges its two lost men, going for a feel good positivity between the late night bars and the gaming tables and it’s got a great kinetic clip to it; A long take, wandering, rambling film which points ever forward, taking on it’s influences gleefully like hot streak poker chips.