Heath Ledger did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Jimmy in Two Hands.
Well as with any Australian actor who breaks out internationally, there are ought to be an "early" catalogue of their work on their home turf. Unsurprisingly Heath Ledger falls into this group, as the same year he started the beginnings of his international breakout in 10 Things I Hate About You, he appeared here in perhaps overall a more substantial role as Jimmy. The young man trying to make his name through crime is a good starter role for many an actor, however for Ledger this quite a bit different than one might expect. This in that Ledger's work has more in common with a romantic lead than say Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, which actually makes for a rather intriguing off-beat turn for this type of story. It also allows for Ledger to utilize his substantial charm. This is something I mentioned in A Knight's Tale, however where it was weaponized by him in a way there, here it is realized within a sort of haplessness of the youth of the character. Ledger is wholly winning in this regard bringing such an likable eagerness even in the earliest scenes as the man attempts to make an impression with the local crime boss Pando (Bryan Brown). Ledger speaks of this desire though with an innocence that crafts such a likability for Jimmy, as we can see only the sights for a successful life rather any notion of becoming a true violent criminal or anything of that ilk.
Ledger's terrific by showing just as much interest in Jimmy in meeting up with the hopeful photographer Alex (Rose Byrne). This in bringing though a similar enthusiasm that has that same naivety in a way that very much accentuates the hopeful youth of the young man. Ledger exudes that beautifully here in portraying very much Jimmy as a young man with so many chances for the future, though perhaps not exactly thinking of the best way to achieve that. This as fortunes almost instantly shift for Jimmy, as he bungles his first job for Pando by losing 10,000 dollars, due to leaving the cash when he thought he had a potential chance to meet up with Alex early. After the initial intensity of attempting to find the money, having screwed up royally which Ledger depicts quite naturally though there is initially a little shift. This shift as Jimmy ponders just telling Pando what happened thinking he'd understand. Ledger is downright hilarious in this moment by once again accentuating really just how good natured Jimmy is as a person, and that thinking through this logic makes absolute sense for the young man. The dog eat dog world of the gangster just doesn't make sense to him, and Ledger delivers this as the honest world view of the optimistic young man.
This is even as he is targeted for death for his bungling, he still goes about to still see Alex for a date. This leads to a rather wonderful, and low key scene between Jimmy and Alex where they haven't had a care in the world for the moment as they speak to one another. Their chemistry is absolutely lovely as Ledger again is so charming through portraying this certain shyness in Jimmy as he broaches every moment of the conversation still, and the sheer exuberance as the two seem to find something special in each other. They play off each other perfectly in creating the sense of the mutual attraction in the two, and the understand of the two between each other as they speak of their dreams. Of course such dreams are potentially quite short as the date leads Jimmy right into the hands of Pando and his crew, who plan to kill him, despite Jimmy's pleas of getting the money through running a job. This in which we get two scenes of them dragging into the forest, split through their placement in the film, both which are highlights for Ledger. The first being just a darkly comic bit of brilliance as Ledger delivers Jimmy's attempt at a save through a phone number he doesn't know, with the same sort of attitude of a man attempting to ensure the man at the box office that he does have tickets to the show. Ledger's great in showing that the situation still hasn't fully dawned on Jimmy. When we do see this though, Ledger is incredibly moving in portraying again the strict honesty of Jimmy's pleas befitting a young man who really shouldn't be in the gangster's life.
Jimmy manages to just barely escape that demise in order to hook up with a few other local hoods by robbing a bank in order to get Pando his 10 grand. This whole aspect of the film being pretty terrific as a crime comedy, though never so broad that it breaks the overall tone of the film. Ledger adds to this greatly in just his casual manner as he sits along with his fellow "toughs" as he explains the need and use of a shotgun for a bank robbery. This nothing compared to the robbery itself, which manages to be a downright hilarious, though still tense, sequence. Ledger is surprisingly essential in this through his largely silent, and entirely masked performance. Ledger's body language though throughout the scene is pitch perfect in accentuating Jimmy's inexperience but also the ridiculousness of the less than professional bank robbers. Ledger's pitch perfect in the haplessness both of the entry as even his "proper" use of the shotgun feels a bit artificial. It becomes far greater comedy when one of Jimmy's partner's knocks himself up, leaving Jimmy to juggle more than a few things to make a swift escape. Ledger's inability to hold the shotgun, the money, and drag the other man, is properly labored and wrings out every bit of humor he can from the scene. With that great bit of climactic comedy, we are also given a great bit of dramatic climax as Jimmy brings the money to Pando, while also closing their relationship by brandishing a gun before leaving. Ledger has again two fantastic nearly non-verbal moments, first his threat to Pando where his face just bears the distress of the betrayal of the whole life and the anguish now presented towards Pando as threat, rather than fear within Jimmy. Ledger only topping that though with his expression leaving the place with just this sincere sense of relief in his expression fitting a man whose lifted a great burden of both his debt, but also of a life he never belonged within. This is a terrific performance by Heath Ledger as he manages the film's tone effortlessly, creating just an immensely likable lead we want to see succeed within the story of this atypical film. It's a proper winning turn from Ledger in every sense, showing that while all definitely appreciated his talent at the end of his all too short career, it was evident right from the start.