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Miramax Pictures presents
Two Hands (1999)

"Sometimes small things can magnify themselves into big things. One careless decision can affect the way the rest of your life will unfold. The trick is to think very hard before you take the high road or the low road, because the wrong choice can really f*** you up big time."
- The Man (Steve Vidler)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 06, 2005

Stars: Heath Ledger
Other Stars: Bryan Brown, David Field, Susie Porter, Rose Byrne, Mariel McClory, Steve Le Marquand, Tom Long, Steve Vidler
Director: Gregor Jordan

MPAA Rating: R for violence and pervasive language
Run Time: 01h:29m:34s
Release Date: December 06, 2005
UPC: 786936688221
Genre: crime

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+C-B D-

DVD Review

When A Knight's Tale was released in 2001, lead Heath Ledger struck me as one of those insta-stars, an actor of unproven talent thrust into the Hollywood hype stratosphere by aggressive agents and media searching for the next marquee star. Little did I know, though, that he came to the U.S. with a list of impressive credits from his native Australia, including the lead role in 1999's Two Hands, a down and dirty crime thriller that proves he's got the talent and charisma of a headliner. Were it not for the notoriously acquisition-hungry Miramax buying the domestic rights and then shelving the picture for five years (and now releasing it direct to DVD, no less), Ledger might have had the stateside rep to back up the early hype. As it is, he's still a rising star (and courting Oscar talk for Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain), and his breakout Aussie role has finally seen the light of day in the US.

Though it picked up a slew of Australian Film Institute awards in 1999 (including best film and best screenplay), Two Hands is a genre piece through and through, a crime movie with the same irreverent tone as Pulp Fiction or Trainspotting. All three films find moments of humor, irony, and even whimsy in the darkest of circumstances. Granted, its a style that has become pretty familiar over the last decade or so, built knowingly upon a series of coincidences and plot contrivances, and some of the twists are a bit obvious (the bullets run through the washing machine in the first act may or may not go off in the third), if no less amusing.

Ledger plays Jimmy, a nice young kid fascinated with local hood Pando (Bryan Brown). Eager to become one of the gang, Jimmy beats up a guy on Pando's orders and is taken on to carry out "odd jobs" for his employer. He screws up the first one, though, big time, when he misplaces the $10,000 he was supposed to deliver after deciding, on a whim, to take a dip in the ocean. A marked man, he decides to try to pull off a bank robbery to get the cash. That is, if he isn't too distracted by the pretty girl (Rose Byrne as Alex) in the meantime.

These kinds of movies were all the rage in the wake of Pulp Fiction's success, but Two Hands is a good one. Writer/director Gregor Jordan manages to pack a bunch of surreal touches, funny characters, and bizarre comedic tangents into a fairly formulaic story. A side plot, for example, tracks what happens to the unlucky street urchins who steal the $10,000 from Jimmy. Meanwhile, Jimmy is helped along the way by his late brother, literally—the Man's (Steve Vidler) rotting corpse appears at times (though only to us) to set certain circumstances in motion or to comment on the action.

The picture also has a Down Under charm that's hard to resist. Even bad guys like Pando are still up for a beer (even after he's a marked man, Jimmy insists Pando is a "good bloke" once you get to know him). It's not a great film or anything, but at a brisk 89 minutes, Two Hands is a fun caper.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I know this DVD has probably been gathering dust in the Miramax vaults since the studio acquired the film in 1999, but there's no excuse for a major studio to release a nonanamorphic transfer this late into the life of the format. Two Hands could certainly benefit from the added clarity; as is, the transfer looks a bit too grainy and muddled, showing some obvious edge enhancement, inconsistent black level, and fleshtones that tend to look a bit reddish. It's watchable even blown up to fill an anamorphic display, but it isn't pretty.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Two Hands fare better on the audio side, with a competent DD 5.1 track that presents a wide front soundstage and makes occasional but appropriate use of the surrounds to add atmosphere and beef up action sequences.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 13 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Brothers Grimm, Underclassmen
Packaging: Keep Case
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Given its low profile, it's no surprise Two Hands comes to DVD sans extras of any kind. Though it isn't indicated on the back of the box, the disc does include English subtitles, which makes it easier to follow those thick Australian accents.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

An award winner down under, Two Hands was never given a theatrical run in the US, but this stylish, amusing crime thriller deserves a second chance. I can't wholeheartedly recommend the DVD, thanks to a shoddy transfer and a dearth of extras, but the film is good enough to warrant tolerating those deficiencies.


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