This business of sending some movies directly to iTunes/Amazon.com and on-demand services while they show on limited screens across the country is turning out to be really cool. Some great films, including Michael Fassbender’s Slow West, have been released this year using this method.
Now another great film has been released in this way: Mississippi Grind.
Powerhouse performances are delivered by Ben Mendelsohn as Gerry, a depressed gambler, and Ryan Reynolds as Curtis, his artificially upbeat counterpart. The two meet at a low-stakes poker game, share some bourbon and wind up on a road trip to New Orleans with the intent of getting in on a huge money game.
Things don’t quite work out that way, with Gerry recklessly gambling the money Curtis stakes him, while Curtis womanizes and steals bicycles. Still, the two men continue to be drawn to each other—and it all leads up to some big events.
Reynolds is having a banner year in smaller projects, proving he has more than blockbuster good looks. The man is supremely talented, and this is his best performance to date: Curtis is a fully realized character backed by the kind of script and direction his talent deserves. Reynolds was also great in this year’s funny and sick The Voices (which also did the limited release/on demand thing).
Matching Reynolds note for note is the always-amazing Mendelsohn. His Gerry is everything you would expect from a person suffering from gambling addiction. He’s desperate; he’s unruly; and he’s a genuinely good human being who is trying to make things right. It’s easy to feel sorry for Gerry. Mendelsohn gives him a beating heart.
Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, responsible for the very good Sugar and Half Nelson, wrote and directed this. They are, without a doubt, one of the more underrated writer/director teams working today. This film and its performances need to be remembered in a few months: Mendelsohn and Reynolds deserve year-end award consideration.
Mississippi Grind is available on demand and via online sources such as iTunes and Amazon.com.