Movie Review: Mississippi Grind

Most people fantasise about the prospect of a big payday and many of us have occasionally found ourselves daydreaming about the prospect of striking it lucky at the roulette table or during a high-stakes game of poker. Mississippi Grind explores those ideas and accurately depicts the highs and lows of all-or-nothing wagering.

The popularity of online casino games has increased exponentially over the last decade and the accessibility of online casinos has certainly brought a whole new audience to classics such as blackjack and craps, however this movie lifts the lid on the classic down-at-heel gambler who decides to risk it all.

It isn’t a completely original idea with many preceding movies travelling down the same well-worn path, however, Ben Mendelsohn is completely convincing in his role as the exasperated Gerry. This situation may not be 100% unique, however, it has certainly been brought to life and made ever-so-slightly more believable by the excellent interpersonal dynamics between the two lead characters.

Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds form a formidable partnership, which occasionally makes it easy to forget that the superb supporting cast includes Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton and Alfre Woodard.

One thing that Mississippi Grind does well is showcase the mental torture that high-stakes gamblers have to endure on a regular basis. Although the bright lights of the casino do help make many of the scenes look incredibly glamourous, they don’t shy away from the self-destructive tendencies that come with the territory. We also get a brief glimpse into Gerry’s past, which does help account for some of his reckless actions and previous failings. His former life unravels as the film moves along with the audience likely to find themselves able to sympathize with this downtrodden individual. His vulnerabilities are fully exposed throughout the movie and that helps maintain an air of gritty realism and prevents the film from becoming too unrealistic.

There is a nice pace about the film with the characters moving between scenes relatively quickly and it wouldn’t be a surprise if we learned that the writers had plenty more ideas that failed to make into the final edit.

We see the stomach-churning despair of losing it all, coupled with the unrelenting joy of winning it back with interest. One of the significant subtexts to this film is that both characters have a number of trust issues and these are put to the test by a series of erratic and unexpected actions. Despite being advised otherwise by supporting characters within the film, the two main protagonists continue to cross paths and are continuously drawn to one another. The fact that Gerry believes Curtis is his ‘lucky charm’ suggests that there is a large dollop of self-interest involved, however, it’s hard to dispute that there is natural connection between the pair – potentially fuelled by their shared love of high-stakes gambling.

There are a number of inscrutable characters in the movie and it doesn’t necessarily help shake off the murky clandestine image that some casinos have developed over the years. However, Mendelsohn, who is so often cast as the villain, portrays a more happy-go-lucky character on this occasion. Although there are suspicions surrounding his intentions at the beginning of the film, it soon becomes apparent that he is also equally as vulnerable as his venerable sidekick, Gerry.

If you simply explained the plot to any seasoned movie buff, they would likely roll their eyes and tell you that they’ve seen it all before. However, Mississippi Grind is different. It takes the convention and plays with it. Although the ending is perhaps a little on the low-key side, there are enough twists and turns to keep the average viewer suitably entertained for over an hour and half.

The film is undoubtedly lifted by the performances of both Mendelsohn and Reynolds and despite a perceived lack of originality, it is still a hugely enjoyable watch.

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