Mississippi Grind (109 mins) Directors: Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
For the first few minutes there’s some promise in this gambling drama that displays a confident directorial style as sad-sack Ben Mendelsohn and fast-talking Ryan Reynolds meet at a poker table. Impressed with his new pal, Mendelsohn takes a shine to his style and they team up, travelling along the Mississippi to New Orleans, picking up whatever action they can along the way because, as is always the way with these things, Mendelsohn owes some money to some people. Reynolds talks and talks, telling stories like he’s Verbal from The Usual Suspects, and it seems like there are bound to be some intriguing developments down the line. But it starts to emerge that this is a story with nowhere to go, and no one particularly interesting to get us there. It never really makes it clear what the stakes are, so it’s not much more than a meander from one casino to the next. An air of desperation hangs over it, and that much glumness is fine if there’s a spark or a purpose, but Mississippi Grind largely drifts despite the best efforts of its leads.