HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Mississippi Grind
HTS Overall Score:73
I haven’t seen a good gambling movie in quite some time, and usually stick to the more gambling heist type of films like “Ocean’s 11” and the like. However, I had heard good things about “Mississippi Grind” from the film grapevine and decided to give it a try. I even decided NOT to watch the trailer as I’ve been rather disappointed with how modern trailers completely spoil a movie with too much information. So your trusty movie critic went in as blind as a bat, and despite having very few preconceived notions I was still rather surprised at how different the movie felt from what my brain had conjured up. Instead of a slick and polished gambling movie about going from rags to riches, we have a rough and depressingly realistic look at two men who have issues with gambling and their winding trip down the Mississippi, for better or for worse.
We have two men from very different walks of life in a poker game. Gerry (Ben Mendelsohn) is a depressed and worn out real estate broker who has let his life go to gambling. He’s a loser at the tables, and a loser at life. His wife left him years ago and he owes a TON of money to different people around town. At the same table is Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), a happy go lucky guy who’s good at poker with a wildly infectious charm. The two end the night by going to a bar and becoming a bit of an odd couple. With Curtis around Gerry becomes nearly invincible. He wins at just about everything he puts his hands to. With loan sharks after him, Gerry cooks up the bright idea of heading down the entire Mississippi trail, hitting every action spot along the way in order to pay off his debts and hit it big. Though they barely know each other, the overly optimistic Curtis fronts Gerry the cash and the two head out on the road to make their fortune.
While you might think that the gambling is the point of the movie, the road trip is actually the main focus of the film. The two men have a lot of secrets in their life and an intimate road trip with two guys betting more than just money is sure to dig up a lot of those secrets. While Gerry is worn down and gritty, he seems like a nice guy, and actually is in some ways. However he didn’t become the worn out loser that he is today by being a sweet guy and his flaws start to come to the surface. Stealing from his ex-wife, losing money hand over fist and even lying to Curtis is second nature to the old guy. On the flip side, there is a sort of desperate and haunted loneliness to the wizened gambler. No matter how far he’s gone down this path, there’s a piece of him that wants to get back to the whole man that he once was.
Curtis himself may SEEM like a lucky charm with no flaws, but he is most certainly a loser as well. Just a loser of a different color. While he makes money from his gambling and is affable to everyone he meets, there is no stability to the young man. He’s got a gorgeous girl by the name of Simone, but he can’t settle down, and his constant drifting has put him at odds with everyone he’s come in contact with. Not to mention the fact that he has a few skeletons in his closet that very well may come to bite him in the butt during the road trip.
“Mississippi Grind” is as slow moving and rough as the waters of the river itself. The movie isn’t flashy or overly Hollywood at all. Instead it’s a steady paced character study of the two men as they make their way down the river gambling. What seems like a buddy gambling movie soon turns into a push/pull …parasitic..relationship that both alienates and bonds the two men together. Watching it unfold is really the enjoyable part of the film as you’re left wondering at every turn just what is going on behind the other person’s eyes. What will they do next? Will they stab each other in the back and just what secrets does Curtis have behind that charming personality? There are some fantastic scenes in the film where we get to peel back the mask that covers each of the two men. Gerry has two main ones. The first being his interactions with Louise, his ex-wife, and the other being a very soft and vulnerable scene between him and Vanessa, an escort that he spends an evening with baring his soul. Vanessa herself being much more powerful in that scene than even Gerry’s introspective realizations. Curtis’s comes near the end of the movie when he enters a bar down south and talks with an elderly singer, revealing the past behind his erratic actions.
Rated R for language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60418[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded Blu-ray from Lionsgate entertainment imitates the grungy feeling of the movie itself, with a rather desaturated looking image that feels grey and worn out. There are still colors aplenty, but they tend to take a backseat to the dirty and grey color grading of the movie. Detail is solid, but sometimes a bit soft and intentionally out of focus. Some shots will show stunning clarity, such as the dog track, but that gauzy layer settles over the movie once more to give it a rough look. The digital photography isn’t overly grainy or noisy, but the distinct colors (or lack of colors) used in the film gives it that tone and feel of depression and somberness. Skin tones can look a little pasty as a result. Black levels are good, and show off some nice shadow detail, although they never are as clear and deeply inky as they could be with that gauzy look to the movie.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=60426[/img]“Mississippi Grind” isn’t a powerhouse action film, but neither is it a boring, front heavy mix either. The dialog is always crisp and clear throughout, and the balance with the southern fried blues music is excellent. There is not much going on besides dialog for a majority of the film, but there are plenty of times where the surrounds and LFE channel get a heavy dose of use. The sounds of the busy casinos roar and rattle around the listener while the southern infused score drones on with a twangy staccato of sound. LFE adds to a few more action oriented bits around town, but mainly is a support structure, adding low end to car doors, truck horns, and the afore mentioned score.
• Two of a Kind: On the Road with "Mississippi Grind"
“Mississippi Grind” is a down and dirty, gritty tale of two men that beats you around the head and shoulders until you’re as battered and bruised as the two men. You feel their pain, their bluesy suffering and raise that glass of bourbon to salute the two men by the end of the film. It’s not a shiny and slick Hollywood film, and it’s not even the best drama in the last decade, but it’s entertaining and certainly stabs at some very pertinent character issues that plague both society and those two men individually. Audio and video are solid and once again there seems to be almost no extras, which is a tad disappointing. Recommended as a good rental.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Yvonne Landry
Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 110 Minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: December 1st, 2015
Buy Mississippi Grind Blu-ray on Amazon
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