The journey is the destination in “Mississippi Grind”
To be honest, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden had drifted pretty far off my film radar, when I heard about “Mississippi Grind”. At first I thought that the writing duo behind “Half Nelson” making a gambling/buddy flick starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn was a strange idea. After seeing the first trailer though I knew I was going to have to see it, and I was even a little excited.
I am happy to report that, with their newest film, they are right back on that radar. “Mississippi Grind” is a gambling movie about two men, at different places in their lives, going on the road in search of a big payday. That is about all you need to hear from me about the plot, because Boden and Fleck opted to shift the story’s focus away from the gambling itself and onto the character development of the two lead actors.
That character focus pays off big time for the writing/directing duo, and is what really sets their film apart from the slew of other “Let’s hit the road, for one last big score” movies of the past. Mendelsohn and Reynolds are pitch perfect in their interactions with one another. Both Gerry (Mendelsohn) and Curtis (Reynolds) are damaged men. Both of them are looking for a spark, and they believe they may have found it in one another. There is a wonderful and entertaining juxtaposition between the old, shaggy Gerry and the suave, self-assured Curtis.
Another brilliant move by Boden and Fkeck was to not give up all of the answers, when it comes to either of the men’s back stories. You never quite figure out what you wanted to know about either of their pasts or what their motives exactly are, and that somehow not only feels okay… it feels important to the effectiveness of the film. Like you would have enjoyed the ride a lot less had you been given all of the information.
Boden and Fleck showed me something, with this movie. They showed a really intelligent restrain in their story telling. This movie could have been just a throw away, cliche-filled story with talented actors to grab attention and not much else. Instead, it was an immensely enjoyable, truly original film with amazing performances by it’s two leads.