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Mississippi Grind (2015), a more mature look into Ryan Reynolds’ charm.

March 14, 2017

MY CALL:  This is a witty approach to the kinds of people drawn to gambling, their hot streaks and the lulls, and what happens when those two cross paths. As their relationships and superstitions unfold we find equal parts warmth and desperation in this film. I enjoyed it a lot.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Mississippi Grind:  Some other movies about people who find themselves dangerously in debt from gambling, and then gamble to pay their debts include Rounders (1998), 21 (2008) and The Gambler (2014).

Written and directed by Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson) and Anna Boden (Half Nelson), this is the kind of film that I am never really excited to see, but always satisfied after seeing it.  If you’re a fan of Ryan Reynolds or Ben Mendelsohn, that should be reason enough for you.

From their opening scenes we quickly come to understand our two unlikely cohorts.  Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn; Rogue One, Bloodline, Slow West, Animal Kingdom) is a student of the inner workings of the hustle, and the silver-tongued drifter Curtis (Ryan Reynolds; Deadpool, The Change-Up) enjoys a glib luckiness that draws Gerry’s interest.  After meeting at a poker table and enjoying a pretty damn clever joke revolving around Bourbon, Curtis and Gerry hit it off.

But Curtis seems less interested in actually winning than simply being entertained, and Gerry leans compulsively to the game.  And whereas Curtis strikes the match to make things edgy and interesting, Gerry is the powder keg for whom we worry.  You see good things always seem to happen to Curtis–but not Gerry, especially not when Curtis is gone.  But Gerry is our storyteller and we know a lot more about him than our mysterious charming drifter.

Knowing little about each other, the two embark on a journey.  We discover more about them as they do within each other.  Meanwhile we, as outsiders, gain perspective on what makes gamblers tick.  This film enjoys the superstitions of gamblers who pick winners at the dog track based on recent coincidences and desperately look for signs and lucky charms from their surroundings.

Ryan Reynolds is a more mature version of his last decade’s self.  He channels all the cutting charm that earned him our favor from Waiting (2005), Van Wilder (2002) and Buying the Cow (2002), but has now grown up…somewhat.  His charismatic drifter exudes occasional glimmers that smack of his touching performance in The Woman in Gold (2015); but most of the time he’s just Ryan being Ryan outside of the confines of his typical raunchy comedy.

Much as the temptation to stay and try your luck with one more hand, this film has a slow but powerful draw.  I’d recommend it for a quiet Sunday afternoon.

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