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Mississippi Grind

Blu-ray / DVD: ‘Mississippi Grind’ – an American original, plus ‘American Ultra’ and ‘Goodnight Mommy’

MissGrind
Lionsgate

Mississippi Grind (Lionsgate, Blu-ray, DVD) plays like a seventies character drama, a meandering road movie through the byways of American characters who populate the card rooms and dice tables and racetracks, and an oddball buddy movie built on a chance encounter and an instant kinship between two losers gambling their lives away. Ryan Reynolds is Curtis, a good looking guy who has all the outward suggestions of a charming hustler, and Ben Mendelsohn is the self-destructive Gerry, killing his nights and his income at cards and sports bookies, betting everything on the fantasy of instant success on a single good night.

These guys are buddies by chance—they meet over a hand of cards and bond over top-shelf whiskey—and travelling companions by impulse when Gerry decides to follow Curtis to a big tournament in New Orleans. Curtis is generous and trusting to a fault, or maybe to a need, and a storyteller whose tales may or may not be in the orbit of reality. He runs in gambling circles for the charge of the action, not just the cards but the byplay, the people, that cardroom culture of oddball personalities. Gerry is a gambling addict and a pathological liar whose past is a wrecking yard of ruined relationships and failed promises and impulsive long shots and whose future is already in hawk to a loan shark (Alfre Woodard in a single scene-stealing appearance).

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Review: Mississippi Grind

Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn

Even in our small world, a great actor can be hidden from mainstream view by geography. When the 2010 Aussie crime picture Animal Kingdom banged out from Down Under, it boosted a group of veteran performers—Jacki Weaver and Joel Edgerton among them—onto Hollywood short lists. The big revelation was a slightly built actor with a weak chin, one Ben Mendelsohn, who burned a hole in the screen as a frightening psycho. Mendelsohn was over 40 and well-traveled when that film came out; he’s grabbed visible roles in high-profile movies (The Dark Knight Rises) and TV (Bloodline) since. But Mississippi Grind is the performance that erases any doubt that Mendelsohn is one of the most exciting people on screen these days.

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