Will Mississippi Grind Be the Next Great Poker Film?

Actor Ben Mendelsohn knows how to be adorable. “People are never shy about telling you what they f*cking think. At the same time, f*ck that. F*ck what they think they f*cking want or this or that or f*cking any of it,” he told Ryan Gilbey for a 2013 article in The Guardian. It’s pretty normal language for the Australian actor, and it should work really well for his role as Gerry in the upcoming poker film, Mississippi Grind. In the film, Mendelsohn plays opposite Ryan Reynolds as the two embark on a road-trip to New Orleans where a high-stakes poker tournament awaits them. During their trip, the two encounter a few sticky, betting situations, which, in the end, tightens their relationship. The movie also stars Sienna Miller, Analiegh Tipton, and Alfre Woodard.

Photography from the movie surfaced during the recent opening weekend of Cannes Film Festival, but some are speculating that the full movie will not make its official screen debut until September’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Mississippi Grind doesn’t appear to be a poker movie that’s extra obsessed with poker strategy or the bright-lights casino culture of gambling Mecca’s like Las Vegas or Atlantic City. Instead, it comes off as a character-oriented film, which uses poker as a vehicle to uncover the two main characters’ flaws and dreams. The film will be Hollywood’s most recent attempt at capitalizing on the poker crowd, ever since last year’s disappointing release of Runner Runner, in which Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake stunk up the script. Film School Rejects puts it best here:

It [Runner Runner] manages to be both convoluted and simplistic, busy and ultimately empty, and it does it all with expository narration that boils storytelling and character development down to poker references and metaphors.

The movie might have worked out better had it piggy-tailed off of new laws which just made it legal for online gambling sites to operate in states like New Jersey in particular. The state only recently legalized online gambling and, as a result, has seen a boost in interest. This is true in the case of prominent site Betfair, which added “51 online table games and slots, including popular slots games like Ghostbusters, Star Trek and Monopoly as well as roulette, solitaire, blackjack and poker,” according to a press release.

Also, many people are still waiting for Matt Damon’s encore performance in the sequel to 1998’s Rounders, which has become a cult classic among poker players. Shooting for that film has yet to begin, but according to Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, it will begin “instaneously.” He made that statement almost a year ago, so it looks like we’ll be waiting at least until 2016 for Rounders 2 to be released. Until then, it’ll be interesting to see how Mississippi Grind shakes up the poker narrative we’ve all gotten used to.

By Guest Contributor Todd McMahon
Todd McMahon is a freelance writer based out of San Francisco. He’s been writing about movies and sports since 2003. On most evenings you can find him arguing with his pet Akita about the meaning of life.