Two Hands – Oz Movie #12

Two Hands
Director Gregor Jordan
(released 1999)

Is this the first of what could later be called a genre, criminal noir meets Australian humour? The result, a truly absurd mash of Sydney underworld (used advisedly in this case) and Australian domesticity at its best. Elderly women are always respectfully addressed as ‘Mrs’.  Films like this cannot be successful without the contributions by the character actors with teensy roles to play. Mrs Jones (Mary Acres), Mrs Fletcher (Moya O’Sullivan). Mariel McClorey as young Helen was terrific.

This movie launched the careers of Ledger and Byrne – it’s interesting to see often first Australian movies does that. But what would their performances have been without the backdrop of all that sensational support? The actors like David Field who are always there, routinely good. And, as others have pointed out, Bryan Brown who redeems himself for what I always feel is a rather stodgy screen presence.

I read an unintentionally hilarious, very earnest socialist review of Two Hands on the world socialist web site. It grimly listed not only all the faults of the movie, but also all those of the rather fawning press. It concludes:

Two Hands is the 33-year-old Jordan’s first feature. Notwithstanding its flaws, Two Hands does show that this young director, still at the beginning of his filmmaking career and perhaps a little unsure of what to focus on, has talent and potential. One hopes he will rise above the myopic and unhelpful praise of the Australian critics, and that his next effort will be a more defined and substantial work.

And yes, I suppose that’s true. But there is an entirely different level on which to approach this movie, and that’s with gut-feeling. Go with the belly laugh whilst slightly uneasily pondering just why you are laughing like that. The fact that you are doing these two things at once is proof that the film works. To put is as Brown did when talking about it to Filmink:

Two Hands is a very funny movie, but it’s also fucking chilling.

It’s partly humour juxtaposed with horror that makes the film’s dichotomy. But it’s also innocence set in violent sleeze. Director Jordan in the same Filmink report:

“Casting the role of Jimmy was always critical,” said Jordan. “When you’re presenting a character who basically does very stupid things, you have to have an actor who’s likeable. Otherwise everyone will just think he’s a fuckwit. I was really lucky to find him.”

Interesting to note that Jordan came out in public about Harvey Weinstein before the ‘Me Too’ movement began. He comments:

With the success of Two Hands, Gregor Jordan experienced something that many “hot” young filmmakers went through in the nineties and the first years of the new millennium: the mincing machine marked Miramax. The major indie American studio – and its human caricature boss Harvey Weinstein – liked to make plays for any directors that looked like they might have been going places. “They offered me this three-picture deal, which was this sort of mythical thing at the time,” explains Jordan today. “The reality was that Harvey Weinstein would offer these young filmmakers a three-picture deal, which pretty much meant that he owned their arse. He could control what happened to them; if they suddenly started getting offered big projects, he could then use his leverage with the three-picture deal to either jump on board the big picture that they were doing, or take them away. Three-picture deals were not a good thing to have with Miramax. Harvey Weinstein was such a fucking arsehole, but I signed it. They give you a whack of cash and tell you that they’re going to make all these movies with you.”

I wonder how many young Australian directors suffered from this? I wonder why it is that I find whatever else they might do elsewhere, that none of it comes close to the fantastic work they do at home?

Certainly, on your list of Oz movies to watch, you should make space for this, not least because it feels like it was made yesterday.



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