I was going to review Sean Penn in Carlito's Way, but after watching the film I felt no reason to. He is fine in his role as a slimy lawyer, being appropriately unstable that works for the role, but his performance is not incredible, in fact I think I preferred Viggo Mortensen in his single scene performance. It is a good performance by Penn much better than all but one of his nominated performances. I still feel no reason to give Penn another review who has had plenty thanks to his undeserved Oscar nominations, when I can instead give the underrated as well as my 1985 supporting winner Christopher Lloyd another deserved review for his performance in this film.
Twenty Bucks has many different stories, most of them are not particularly memorable, one story involves a small time grifter Frank (Steve Buscemi) who is approached by a career criminal Jimmy played by Lloyd. Lloyd commonly portrays more manic character like in Back to the Future, but here he is almost the personification of calmness. In this film we of course do not see where Jimmy comes from we only know him from his time he first approaches Frank after spotting Frank cheats a restaurant out of a few dollars. Lloyd simply is the master of his part effortlessly creating the intelligence of his character from his first moment on screen.
There is not a question to the fact that Lloyd absolutely controls the screen as he shows Jimmy to truly be a man who has learned a great deal from his career as a criminal. Lloyd is terrific in his depiction of the blunt way that Jimmy approaches Frank. He is especially blunt as he takes apart Frank's small time very petty thievery, and convinces Frank to join him in a string of old up. Lloyd does allow even a question to the way Jimmy is able to so easily convince Frank to join him. Lloyd exudes an incredible confidence here and shows that Jimmy is a man who knows exactly what he is doing.
Lloyd is brilliant in the hold up scenes as he portrays just how smooth he is in the role. He turns Jimmy into a force to reckoned with in term of efficiency. There is not a hint of hesitation in Lloyd's portrayal of Jimmy he makes it clear that Jimmy knows exactly how to handle a robbery to the point that he is even a little casual in his manner. Lloyd makes this casual manner not only believable but entertaining in the way Jimmy so calmly tells people to not look at him, or even the way he shoots someone going for the alarm. Lloyd makes Jimmy a master criminal who knows his trade so well that he really honestly can do robbery in such a particular manner.
Buscemi and Lloyd are great together as basically the protege and mentor of sorts. Their relationship is very interesting as Buscemi's portray Frank as very inexperienced, where Lloyd is terrific in the way he portrays Jimmy act as almost a father to Frank. Lloyd has a wise teaching manner, with even a little warmth in the way he talks Frank through the process, but as well tells him how to do things properly. Lloyd absolutely dominates as Jimmy carries Frank through the robberies.
What is especially striking about Lloyd performance is that his semi warmth in Jimmy is even just part of his business plan. The final scene of the two Lloyd is chilling as he so harshly ends the relationship between the two. It is quick to the point, and Lloyd shows that this end was really exactly Jimmy's plan all along. Lloyd makes his the casual manner a terrible double edged sword in that he can bring someone to join him as easily as he will dispose of them. This is a great performance by Lloyd effortlessly creating this suave criminal who is so fascinating it is a shame that the entire film was not about his character.