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Two Hands

Reviewed By Filmink Magazine (owes us money)
Posted 07/30/99 03:12:22

"Gritty, darkly comic, with a steadying dose of laid back charm."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

For a nation broken in on the backs of convicts, the Australian crime film is a surprisingly endangered species. Arthouse quirkiness rules, and when a good crime flick does come along (think Redball or Idiot Box), nobody knows what to do with it. Two Hands might finally be the movie to take Australia's mean streets onto the big screen. Gritty, darkly comic and with a steadying dose of laid back charm, Two Hands is good enough to make crime pay in Australian cinemas.

Jimmy (Ledger) is a young hood desperate to crack it in the Sydney underworld. He steps up by wiring into local drug dealer Pando (Brown), but trips when he loses ten thousand dollars of the mobster's money. The only answer seems to be a bank job, mapped out by his hooked-in sister, Dierdre (Porter). But Pando and his mates, and a romance with an innocent country girl (Byrne) send Jimmy's life into a tailspin.

After making out at Cannes with his witty short Swinger, director Gregor Jordan takes on his first feature film with verve, imagination and a needling sense of street urgency. Blistering bare knuckle boxing scenes, bloody shoot outs, comic crims and drug deals are all part of Jordan's grubby mise en scene, but with a refreshingly Australian twist. The crims wear footy shorts and thongs, the shoot-outs tear their way through Kings Cross and there's a moment of truth under the monorail station in Liverpool Street. The film's already full throttle narrative is kicked up another gear by its dramatic take on the here and now.

Jordan's casting also works to the film's mood of tough action and edgy comedy. With winning foresight, Jordan's grabbed star-on-the-rise Heath Ledger just before he makes it big in the States with 10 Things I Hate About You and The Patriot. Ledger is lean and hungry, but still charming enough to make Jimmy a sympathetically moving hero. Newcomer Byrne's ethereal sweetness manages to pull her role above that of just "the girl", and Susie Porter sprays spit and vinegar as Jimmy's hard nosed sister. But two performances take the film out. A mulleted Steve Le Marquand is hilarious as yobbo hold up man Wozza, treating the bank job like a day at the footy. And though it was fun to see him drag around his bandaged up chopper in Dear Claudia, Bryan Brown gives his best performance in ages as Pando. Half stony menace and half back-slapping larrikin, he makes for an exciting and intriguingly complex bad guy.

Tough, funny and compelling, Two Hands is the pumped up tour through the criminal underworld that Australian cinema needed. ---Erin Free

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