Mississippi Grind draws from the archetypes of the gambling and the road movie, finding the rough-edged redolence of a gambler’s existence. We follow a pair of gambling tragics – or perhaps addict is the right word – Ben Mendehlson’s world-weary Gerry (like “Lewis”) and Ryan Reynolds’ mouthy Curtis (like “Mayfield”). Each becomes intertwined in the other’s life after sharing some hands of poker and glasses of whiskey, and travel across the States looking for the next big win.
This feels like a gambling film. It smells like a gambling film – the musty carpets, the cheap scotch, the morning musk of the racetrack. Mississippi Grind follows Gerry and Curtis through the dizzying highs and debilitating lows of a gambler’s life, offering up a cobbled-together character study along the way.
It’s an uneven film in many ways; the pacing is slidshod around the middle and the female cast members – from Sienna Miller to Alfre Woodard – are given short shrift by the screenplay. As many stories have before it, it diagnoses gambling addiction as sort of an expression of masochism. But unlike its forebears, it understands and respects the gambler’s impulse. We’re alongside these men at the craps table, rather than looking down upon them.