Film Review | Mississippi Grind – A Great American Movie?

Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden seem to have a thing for stories about a Hollywood dreamboat with an addiction. They previously gave us the Ryan Gosling as coke addicted teacher movie, Half Nelson. Here, they have Ryan Reynolds (the smirkier Ryan) as a chronic gambler and semi con man.

Misssissippi Grind Poster with Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds -
Misssissippi Grind Poster with Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds via

The story begins with Gerry, a down on his luck gambler, played by the awesome Ben Mendelsohn at his hang dogginest, who strikes up a friendship based on lies and gambling, with the considerably more dashing Curtis (Ryan Reynolds). The film then takes the form of an amiable, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, road movie as the pair work their way down the Mississippi River towards New Orleans.

As we follow the pair we see the tiny rationalisations they make for betting often large sums of money on anything they can think of. From poker games to pool to random, uncontrollable occurrences; it’s all fair game. Most conversations take the form of entertaining bullshit of some description. People talk in funny stories and magic tricks but rarely anything else. In the absence of ‘straight’ characters this is a character piece where no one talks like real people. It’s fun but distancing.

At times the film is far too interested in all the acting. The actors in this thing really act. They act so much that scenes are often cuts of close ups of their faces, even for scenes that are written as easygoing slapstick. The result feels like an unintentional lack of breathing room at times as the directors choose to focus on the performances that, while strong, feel dangerously close to award bait.


The tone and locations give the movie a pleasantly run down feel and the mixture of glamour, sleaze and squalour on the road is perfect for the subject matter. The characters drift and lie their way through a world that seems on the way out but that still manages to promise a lucky day somewhere down the line.

The promotional material for this comes plastered in a quote praising it as ‘A Great American Movie’. That’s a good and bad thing. At times it’s too much of a movie, right down to a fairytale third act. Taken on this level though it is entertaining and, fundamentally, it keeps you wanting to know how things will work out. This is a film that’s aims for greatness and ends up just being good.

Mississippi Grind is out in cinemas on Friday 23rd October. Check out the trailer below.

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