Review:  Movie review: Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn are a strong pair in ‘Mississippi Grind’


You can practically smell the cigarette smoke and bourbon-soaked desperation wafting through “Mississippi Grind,” a nicely observed throwback of a road movie about a pair of gambling addicts en route from Dubuque, Iowa, to a high-stakes poker game in New Orleans.

Paying affectionate homage to gritty buddy pictures of the 1970s, this bluesy character piece stars Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds as two quite different individuals sharing the same, crippling compulsion.

Mendelsohn’s Gerry is a sad sack real estate agent heading into a nasty downward spiral when he meets Reynolds’ slick, charismatic Curtis at a poker table .


Deeply in debt and convinced Curtis is his good luck charm, Gerry convinces him to gamble their way along the Mississippi, where they always seem to be a coin-flip away from another riverboat casino or racetrack.

Making like George Segal and Elliott Gould in Robert Altman’s “California Split,” Australian Mendelsohn (sporting a pitch-perfect American accent) and Reynolds are terrific, each wrapping himself up in the material like a well-worn favorite sweater.

It’s a welcome return to form for “Half Nelson” co-directors and co-writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck after their tentative 2010 film, “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.”

Here, they go all in with a redemptive tale that takes some unexpected turns even as it appears to be sticking with the safe bets.

“Mississippi Grind.” MPAA rating: R for language. Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes. Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles.