For local viewers, scenes in St. Louis will captivate in “Mississippi Grind,” as two gamblers seek to change their fortunes in river city stops.
While watching self-destructive addicts is often difficult, the two performers in this character study are compelling enough to care. Ryan Reynolds is at his best as charismatic, glib Curtis, and Ben Mendelsohn, Emmy nominee for “Bloodline,” is destined for a career boost after his stunning turn as hapless Gerry.
Gerry’s compulsive gambling has ruined his family life, and racked up too many debts to dig out from under. He meets Curtis at a poker table in Iowa, and they become fast friends. Curtis is a smooth talker and seems to have it all together, but that’s the facade Reynolds conveys.
They hatch a plan to make a lucrative New Orleans poker game, with stops in St. Louis and Memphis along the way.
Directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, responsible for the Ryan Gosling breakthrough “Half-Nelson,” create a lived-in feel and soak up the spotlighted cities’ atmospheres.
You can’t predict where they are going with their story, which is always a plus, and the film has enough interesting twists and mystery to intrigue. But the two key performances are what make this well-drawn film memorable.
Also of note, KTRS Radio personality Paul Harris has a cameo as a poker shark on a gambling riverboat.
3 stars out of 3
- Directors: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
- Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller
- Rated: R for language
- Length: 1:48