Southern drifters, gamblers, lost souls, and con-men populate the seedy world of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck’s Mississippi Grind.
Starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn as a pair of “oddball strangers” who hit the road together to try to make a high-stakes poker tournament in New Orleans, Fleck says he and Boden just wanted to make a film that felt like those that continue to inspire them — including classic ’70s fare like Robert Altman’s California Split and Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow.
In Mississippi Grind, Reynolds’ Curtis is a charismatic nomad. “He drifts from town to town and casino to casino and he’s always befriending new faces on his journeys,” says Fleck, who was excited to show Reynolds in a different kind of role. One of those new faces happens to be Mendelsohn’s down-on-his-luck Gerry, who he encounters in a riverboat casino in Iowa. “Gerry’s a struggling gambler who is in boatloads of debt. No one will loan him money anymore and his life may be in danger,” he says.
So they team up and hit the road to New Orleans with stops in St. Louis, Memphis, Mississippi — all varieties of dog tracks, horse tracks, and rundown casinos. Fleck says locations are key to the story. “We shot in lived-in, down and dirty places that you don’t see too much in modern movies these days. It lives in a ’70s kind of palette.”
It sounds simple enough, but in a story full of gamblers and professional liars, no one’s cards are fully on the table. “It’s very much a character piece,” says Fleck. “They both have different agendas. Gerry wants to win his money and change his life and pay off his debts. Curtis’ motivations are a lot more mysterious. We don’t know why he’s going on this journey till it reveals itself later on in the movie.”
Mississippi Grind does not yet have a release date. Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, and Alfre Woodard also star.