Very much down on his luck gambling addict Gerry (Mendelsohn) teams up with charismatic poker player Curtis (Reynolds). They set out on a road trip to win back what they have lost over the years.
Directors Boden and Fleck prod and probe at the tough subject of gambling addiction throughout the movie, yet never let it weigh too heavily on proceedings. Seeing how far someone has lost themselves in the gambling world is, at times, incredibly sad. Viewing life through Gerry's eyes, Mississippi Grind paints a bleak and uncompromising world that he cannot escape from. The next win might just be around the corner, but also the next (bigger) loss is likely for a character such as Gerry who can't seem to stand up without falling down. His life really is a mess; there are hints of earlier, better times, but they are distant memories that he is quickly losing thanks to the haze of gambling and alcohol.
But when that stranger walks into his life, there is an uplift. Curtis helps Gerry become a stronger person; you can see the change that occurs. It’s a powerful study on how anybody who is down on their luck can find solace in someone else that is going through the same problems and still raise their game. Luck is what separates these guys, and the road trip shows how much they are separated even though they operate under the same addiction. That one final big gamble at the end of their trip provides each of them with a different outlook on life. Worlds apart from each other (or are they), the dynamic duo are the yin and yang of the gambling world.
Mendelsohn and Reynolds tag team like a pair on fire. There’s a spark between them, almost a bromance via the means of gambling. Mendelsohn conveys the type of struggles that look to never end, his tired face expresses more than his actions. In contrast, Reynolds is the whippersnapper of the two. A whirlwind of excitement and energy, he is a constant source of amusement and humour that gives the film a rather jovial tone.
Mississippi Grind sees fine performances from Reynolds and Mendelsohn create a worthwhile buddy road trip movie that has laughs, but also emotional and physical turmoil.