(Video on Demand, March 2016) I’m famously risk-averse, so gambling movies are really my only way to vicariously try to understand the mind of high-stake gamblers. But if casino scenes in James Bond are one thing, movies like Mississippi Grind are fit to scare me straight from any kind of gambling. Much of the film revolves around a gambler at the end of his tether: divorced, unable to do well at the office, our protagonist (a striking performance by Ben Mendlesohn) lives to gamble and has lost far more than he’s won. One day, however, he spots a good luck charm in the form of a chatty young man (Ryan Reynolds, in a role with more depth than he usually plays) and decides to travel from Chicago to New Orleans in the hopes of turning his life around. Mississippi Grind is certainly not part of the heroic gambling movie lineage: most of it takes place in dingy river casinos, with fairly sad characters dressing up for the occasion. Our protagonists’ fortunes go from bad to worse, and even an upbeat ending isn’t quite enough to mask the character study of a degenerate gambler. There’s little to enjoy here, although the film does act as a reminder that Mendlesohn and Reynolds can act when they’re given the chance. As for the rest, Mississippi Grind acts as a terrific Public Service Announcement against the evils of gambling—notwithstanding the ending that justifies everything, of course.