Jimmy (Heath Ledger) works as a doorman at a strip club in the infamous Kings Cross area of Sydney. "The Cross" is the kind of place where trouble of the criminal kind is perfectly unavoidable, and Jimmy has trouble avoiding it. When asked by crime kingpin Pando (Bryan Brown) to deliver $10,000 to a unit in Bondi, Jimmy sees himself moving up in the world. When he loses the money on a disappointingly unromantic errand and it is stolen by a pair of Dickensian street kids, Jimmy knows he is a dead man. His only chance is to hook up with his dead brother's ex-gang and rob a bank to make the money back. As Pando's goons, including Acko (David Field) and Wally (Tom Long), hunt Jimmy down, the film races tensely to a climax that will decide his fate.
Jordan begins the movie with the rather forced metaphor of the Chinese yin and yang, told through the tattoo that braces Jimmy's arm so obviously as he moves through the plot. Jimmy's dead brother, narrating the story rather literally from the grave, explains that there is a little good in even the worst people, and a little bad in the best. Despite the hokeyness of its initial enunciation the ying/yang motif is carried expertly throughout the film. Ledger's Jimmy is the walking embodiment of Two Hands' underlying philosophy, a young man pure and charming, but in the context of his employment, lacking a certain innocence. In Jordan's follow-up, Ned Kelly, Ledger played the title character with a vigorous charm and an almost admirable criminality. There is more than a little Ned in Jimmy. Ledger's performance is endlessly charismatic, as is the turn by the brilliant Rose Byrne as love interest and photographer Alex.
However, it is Bryan Brown, as family man and ruthless killer Pando, around which the film unintentionally centers. He so convincingly seesaws between psychopath and patriarch that in a weaker or perhaps longer film his absences would stagnate. Nevertheless, as a character, and again an icon of the yin and yang family/gangster philosophy, Brown fits the film snuggly. Almost too Australian for words, Brown is perfectly cast as the suburban dad with a twitch - so much so that he basically reprises the role in David Caesar's film Dirty Deeds. Susie Porter offers an offbeat heart to the production, again mixing family with crime as the caring mother who preps Jimmy for the robbery as a side project.
Yet it is Sydney that smears its mark most memorably in Two Hands. Like the characters it harbors, it is here exposed for both its beauty and its darkness. Jordan moves his band of criminals through the city's underbelly and sullies some rather splendid locales. Tourist favorites like Bondi Beach have rarely seemed so sallow. Like Pando and Jimmy, Sydney itself is a yin and yang phenomenon and perhaps the perfect location for such a sordidly entertaining story to take place.
Philosophy is only a theme of Jordan's story; its driving force is its suspense, its conceit and its romance. Marred slightly by the gratuitous inclusion of the dead brother side-story, Two Hands is not insubstantial in its brevity. Jordan, here in his firecracker of a debut, has created a fast moving, and ultimately genuinely moving film. Two Hands is a true and highly recommended pocket rocket; a small film that really bangs.
Not a whole lot of features on this disk, but the soundtrack with songs from Alex Lloyd and Powderfinger is stellar.
Run time: 103 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 29th July 1999
Production compaines: CML Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 2
IMDB: 7.2 / 10
Director: Gregor Jordan
Screenwriter: Gregor Jordan
Starring: Heath Ledger as Jimmy, Bryan Brown as Pando, Rose Byrne as Alex, David Field as Acko, Tom Long as Wally, Tony Forrow as Eddie, Steven Vidler as The Man, Dale Kalnins as Kiwi Bob, Kiri Paramore as Les (Origami Presenter), William Drury as Jesus Freak, David Moeaki as Louise, Mathew Wilkinson as Rocket, Mary Acres as Mrs. Jones, Evan Sheaves as Pete, Jarrah Darling as Aaron, Jai Kemp as Security Guard