Mississippi Grind

Gamblers Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn bet the house in this extraordinary road-trip indie

Ben Mendelshon, left, and Ryan Reynolds in 'Mississippi Grind.' Credit: Patti Perret/A24 Films

I've been raving about this spellbinder since I saw it at Sundance. I'll rave again, now that it's hitting theaters and VOD. Gambling tales are a hard sell. But this one is on a lucky streak.

Writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck take their cue from Robert Altman's iconic California Split and let the action flow loose and lively to define character. The movie needed great performances, and it gets them from Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn. Reynolds has never been better than he is as Curtis, a slick pro who gets latched onto in Iowa by sad sack Gerry (Mendelsohn in a four-aces performance that nails every nuance). Gerry's addiction has cost him a wife and a daughter. He thinks Curtis will change his fortune on a gambling tour ending in a high-roller poker game in New Orleans.

That's it. Two guys on the road, grimy bars flavored by blues and honky-tonk, looking for a connection that's not in the cards. To celebrate a win, Curtis treats Gerry to a Woodford, a top-shelf bourbon. Mississippi Grind is Woodford all the way.