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Mississippi Grind (2015)
This is a melancholy, earnest road movie about a couple of poker players played by Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds. It is a watchable if faintly baffling movie, never anything other than well acted, conspicuously without allegiance to any conventional three-act screenplay structure. Like the river in the title, it just keeps rolling along, long after you have given up waiting for the big twist or the killer reveal or the double-cross sucker punch. This is something in the looser, untrammelled, even undirected style of the 1970s American New Wave: there’s an ancestor-worship acting cameo for James Toback (screen writer of The Gambler).

It puts its own spin on the buddy movies of the 70s era: Redford/Newman from George Roy Hill’s The Sting and Segal/Gould from Robert Altman’s California Split. It presents realism and sentimentality in a strange but intriguing mix, leaving the implausibly sweeter material until the end. Maybe the retro look of the drama is a necessity, now that so much poker is actually played online.

Ben Mendelsohn (Gerry), plays a deadbeat loser from Iowa with a parched, frazzled look, as if he has just climbed out of a tumble dryer nursing a hangover. He is a drinker and gambling addict – although his condition is never described in these terms – who has lost everything he has to poker. He has no money to speak of and parted company with his wife and child long ago.
Mississippi Grind
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One night, Gerry buys in to a low-stakes poker tournament and he and the rest of his table are amused in spite of themselves by Curtis, played by Ryan Reynolds: bit of cool, bit of wise-guy, clearly new in town, boyish yet worldly, who has a knack of engaging everyone else in conversation that doesn’t look like needling or gamesmanship. Gerry and Curtis get talking later in a bar, and Gerry, gets very over-excited by Curtis’s style: he is clearly one of life’s winners and Gerry can’t suppress his desire to be taken in..

Curtis says he has a plan to travel to New Orleans to partake in a high-rolling poker game where players need to put up $25,000. Gerry is desperate for a piece of that action and after expressing many a good-natured qualm, Curtis agrees to take him there; the plan is to go on a road trip with his new best friend down to the deep south, winning money in games and casinos along the way, blood brothers in the cult of the cards, the dice, the dogs and the ponies.

What’s the angle? Is Curtis working a familiar scam? You'll have to watch and see. Ben Mendelsohn best performance to date.
Marks : 7/10
Director Anna Boden / Ryan Fleck Ben Mendelsohn Gerry
Producer Randall Emmett Ryan Reynolds Curtis
Writing Anna Boden / Ryan Fleck James Toback Tony Roundtree
Cinematography Greig Fraser Sienna Miller Simone
Cert./Runtime 15 / 108 mins Yvonne Landry Louise