Directed and written by both Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Mississippi Grind follows two gamblers trying to hit is big. The movie opens with Gerry, played by Ben Mendelsohn, as he walks into a locally owned casino in Dubuque, Iowa. He is a regular because everyone knows him. Yet, a new face is at his standard poker table. He is a younger gambler named Curtis, played by Ryan Reynolds. Gerry is thoroughly down on his luck and professes he is in real estate. Curtis reeks of charisma and self-confidence. Both gamblers hit it off and at the spur of the moment decide to enter the “big game” in New Orleans. The $25 thousand buy-in is worth the drive from Iowa. The movie plays out nicely as a road movie and character-driven independent film.
The movie deals with gambling as a subject of concern, and arrives at the point of addiction to gambling. Each gambler relies on superstition to pull off a win. Gerry is a likeable guy, who has a long list of failures. On the road trip he visits his ex-wife. The gut-wrenching sadness Mendelsohn portrays when he realizes she is remarried, and she didn’t even tell him is worth the watch. Curtis is a polarity of Gerry. He literally stinks of confidence. Gerry tells Curtis he is his lucky charm, and seeing them play off each other are good moments in the movie. The soundtrack by Scott Bomar is outstanding and features many of old blues artists and songs.
The movie is not your typical uplifting story, but it is not all that sad either. Clearly, the end is farfetched and the characters’ principles are non-existent. The movie should have ended a bit sooner, but continued with a happy ending, which isn’t bad. In real life, gambling is an unsuccessful venture. As a whole, people who gamble loose more than just money. They lose their dignity. Yet, I do like a Hollywood ending.