Thursday, October 15, 2015

Mississippi Grind (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Mississippi Grind” Doesn’t Take Big Gamble
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

You might think you flipped the channel to a classic movie bingeathon, because if you blink you’ll mistake “Mississippi Grind” for one of those ‘70s flicks about high-stakes gamblers or one of those gritty road pictures.

No, you’re not watching George Segal and Elliott Gould in Robert Altman’s “California Split” (1974), or Steve McQueen in Norman Jewison’s “The Cincinnati Kid” (1965), or James Caan in James Toback’s “The Gambler” (1974).

Instead, this is a throwback movie about a pair of compulsive gamblers traveling from Dubuque to a high-stakes poker game in New Orleans.

“Mississippi Grind” is playing its hand at the Tropic Cinema.

Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds star as the two inveterate gamblers. Gerry (Mendelsohn) is a down-on-his-luck real estate agent looking to hit it big. He thinks he’s found his lucky charm when he meets up with Curtis (Reynolds), a slick charmer who knows his way around a poker table.

Curtis agrees to stake Gerry to a few grand and they head for the big game in the Big Easy, but they can’t help but stop for a few riverboat games along the way.

Not a twist-and-turn con game or a high-powered action film, co-directors and co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”) give us instead a character piece that pays homage to those old buddy pictures.

The film rolls along slowly like the Mississippi that gives it its name. As Gerry and Curtis head toward New Orleans, with Delta blues playing in the background, we sit back and enjoy the ride.

Not flashy filmmakers, Boden and Fleck are content to share with us some emotional truths about flawed humanity. It’s a winning hand.

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