Sunday, May 15, 2016

Movie Review: Mississippi Grind (2015)

Movie: Mississippi Grind (2015)

Directors: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Writer: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ben Mendelsohn, Yvonne Landry, Alfre Woodard, Sienna Miller, & Analeigh Tipton. 

One-Line Plot Synopsis: Gerry (Mendelsohn) and Curtis (Reynolds) team up on a road trip to New Orleans, stopping at gambling spots all the way down.

Well hello good Ryan Reynolds.  Nice to see you again.  Now, I haven't seen Deadpool yet, so I can't quite be on full-blown Team Ryan Reynolds as most people seem to be, but it's nice to see him in a movie like this and moving ever so slowly away from rom-com Ryan Reynolds.  The last movie of his that I wrote a review for was 2008's Chaos Theory.  I've seen a couple of his movie's since then but it was when I stopped writing reviews for a while.  So, sorry Safe House, Buried, The Proposal, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Adventureland, and Definitely, Maybe, but you're probably not going to get a review now.

Let me just sidenote for a second here, this performance reminded me a lot of his performance in Adventureland.  He plays a character with some depth and layers, dealing with some internal conflict that actually has some complexity to it.  It only makes sense that Adventureland was the last movie of his that I really enjoyed (don't tell anyone but I don't really mind The Proposal either...but I'll classify that more as a guilty pleasure than anything else).  

Maybe it's because he's extremely good looking that he kind of fell into that prism of the lead in romantic comedies or it could be because all of his Indie movie choices felt flat as movies where most people explore more interesting and complex roles there to showcase their acting chops but whatever it was, he looks like he may have found his groove as to what he should be doing.  

I am all in on Ben Mendelsohn.  There's something about the way he talks that pulls you into his character and is super intriguing to me.  Does that make sense?  It's as if you're trying to figure out the character's motives and sincerity with everything he says and at the same time it feels like the character is trying to figure it out himself.  As if he isn't quite sure which way he wants to play a situation, even in the moment.  That works perfectly for his character Gerry in Mississippi Grind, but I think that's a little part of most of his characters as well (i.e. Danny Rayburn in Bloodline or Pope Cody in Animal Kingdom).  

Co-Director/Writers Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck know what the fuck they're doing.  Over the past couple of years they've come out with a handful of my favorite independent movies.  Extremely good writing with fantastic direction to pull out some great performance is exactly what I'm in to.  Half Nelson (2006) was Ryan Gosling's coming out party to everyone as an acting force (and yes, I'm a HUGE The Believer fan...that was his real coming out party to me) and Sugar (2008) was maybe the most underrated sports movie of the last 15 years.  I'll admit I wasn't a huge fan of It's Kind Of A Funny Story but I heard the book's great.  They just missed on casting the kids.

Mississippi Grind very much has the feel of the movie Rounders with Mendelsohn in the Edward Norton part, playing the gambler who is only looking out for himself and scrambling to pay back his debts.  Reynolds is a little different than the Damon part in that they aren't long-time friends and Reynolds isn't as straight-edged as Damon, but the relationship with Mendelsohn where he is trying to help out a friend to get him out of a self-destructive situation has the same feel.

Rating: 7.5/10

P.S. I just kind of dig the name Mississippi Grind too.  I'm that easy.

P.P.S. The scene with Reynolds on the basketball court was really damn good.