January 19 - MISSISSIPPI GRIND (2015)
Today's category is "B-sides," which is supposed to highlight lesser known movies from higher profile actors/directors/writers, etc.. Ryan Reynolds never really got the "A-list leading man" status for which he seemed destined (yet), but somehow remains supremely recognizable and likable. It seems like MISSISSIPPI GRIND has been mostly passed over for whatever reason, slipping by audiences and academies alike. That's a shame, because MISSISSIPPI GRIND is an excellent film with two phenomenal performances from its leads, Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds.
I was first introduced to Ben Mendelsohn's work through the Netflix original show BLOODLINE, where he plays a sympathetic deadbeat with a dark past. In MISSISSIPPI GRIND, he plays a very similar character, albeit with a touch more desperation brought on by his gambling addiction and less menace. Mendelsohn's performance is captivating - he simultaneously elicits sympathy, disgust, and fascination, as Ryan Reynolds counteracts him with charm and charisma. The two seem to effortlessly play off of each other, and the script is so well-written that MISSISSIPPI GRIND flies by. I loved the setting of the movie, too - a midwest roadtrip movie that isn't condescending to its environment (something I'm sensitive about as a native Iowan) is rare enough these days. I even learned something about my home state from Ryan Reynolds: "Iowa is the only state whose name begins with two vowels." Thanks, Ryan. MISSISSIPPI GRIND is a great movie that goes some dark places but grounds itself in the emotional journeys of its two main characters.
Tomorrow's category: Under the Radar.