Starring Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Alfre Woodard
There are countless films that address the subject of gambling, whether it be the obsession, addiction or demise, in 2015 we have seen virtually every angle to the gambling flick. Mississippi Grind stars Ryan Reynolds (yes he shows some skin as usual, for those who only like him for the physique) so inevitably, lower your expectations. This is Reynolds third film in 2015, and it’s another disappointment. Writer/directors Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, It’s Kind of a Funny Story) deliver a pre-title sequence landing with such a thud, you at least get a sense of the melancholy headed your way. Reynolds (Self/less, R.I.P.D.) tries to channel Ryan Gosling, but adds very little to his character. Mendelsohn (Lost River, Exodus), on the other hand is typically reliable but poorly miscast in a role that depends on the audience sympathy and patience.
Gerry (Mendelsohn) is an uninspired realtor in a Podunk Iowa town where his gambling debts have left him separated from his family, friendless, and owing half the community. When he meets nomad, leprechaun Curtis (Reynolds), Gerry’s luck at whatever he is playing seems to change. Inconsolable without his new found buddy, the duo devise a plan to gamble their way into big money down the Mississippi river on their way to a big jackpot in New Orleans. Gerry’s luck changes as often as the wind, and it becomes clear, even to Curtis that nothing is stronger than his addiction to winning. Hope fades as each city brings financial loss which begins to affect their friendship.
The end can’t come soon enough, dragging us along until patience give way to frustration.
“Some guys are born to lose,” how many times have we heard in some gambling film. This one opens with a beautiful double ended rainbow that fuels Gerry’s delusion of winning. As he literally chases that rainbow, we watch his addiction devour what little he has left. Mendelsohn is great when he is the villain, antagonist or playing nasty, partly because he has that rough face and deep set eyes. This role needs the audience to care about his well-being, want him to succeed, change things around and that never happens. By the time he is stabbed in the parking lot early on in the film, I hoped he would meet his end sooner rather than later. The two characters are yin and yang on purpose, I get it, but the script never gives us any reason to like these guys.
Cloudy, rainy, grey skies and rundown parts of town are all we ever see on the outside. The pallet of the film certainly reflects the soul of Gerry and his depressing life. Even his Subaru hatchback is caked with dirt and grime. His vile behavior in a Little Rock, AK detour was even enough to make audience members leave the screening. At one point, even when Curtis begins to realize what is happening, “This story doesn’t have a happy ending,” he remarks. I won’t give it away, but the end can’t come soon enough and passes up numerous chances to bow out, instead dragging us along until patience give way to frustration.
A tough ‘Grind’ to sit through.