I liked Ben Mendelsohn's performance in the Netflix series 'Bloodline' and also in 'Starred Up' (my favorite movie in 2014), so I started working through the 2015 movies with 'Mississippi Grind,' in which he stars. With a running time of 108 minutes, it's 10 to 20 minutes too long.
Mendelsohn plays a sad-sack gambling addict named Gerry who lives somewhere in the midwest. Lots of artsy still shots of horrible, run-down cities and towns in the midwest, cut some of those out, you could reduce the running time. Depressing.
Ryan Reynolds plays an adrenaline addict, he's doesn't have a gambling addiction like Gerry, I don't know why critics think he too has a gambling problem. He just likes collecting weird experiences, often violent ones, and sad people, like Gerry. He's a handsome, smooth-talking con man of sorts. They're an odd couple of losers.
The movie tries to end on a kind of upbeat note, but you still know Gerry is doomed. I didn't fast forward at all, so it earns at least a yellow rating. But it's a downer -- the sort of pretentious, self-conscious movie I can't recommend. I did like a lot of the music, especially the great Tom T. Hall singing 'Famous in Missouri.'
I'll give Rex Reed the final word since he is, as usual, spot-on:
"Mississippi Grind is really about the empty loneliness of two men who hang out together to stave off despair—winning a little, losing a lot, showing us the brick wall dead-end gamblers call a life. The ambience of pool halls, honkytonks, backroom crap games and smelly racetracks where these guys live out their aimless days and nights is captured perfectly, lending a distinct air of hopelessness to their already rudderless lives. It’s not uninteresting, but the movie is paced by Valium."