It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Most movies begin at their beginnings and march sternly toward their ends, convinced that the universe makes sense, and that effect follows cause. Once in a long while a film will try to subvert that certainty. Bunuel's "The Phantom of Liberty" (1974) told one story for awhile, and then peeled off to follow another set of characters, and then another. Richard Linklater's "Slacker" (1991) did the same thing, bouncing from one person to the next on a kind of guided tour of Austin, Texas.
And now here is the beguiling "Twenty Bucks," which follows a $20 bill as it slips from one hand to another. There's no deep point to be made; the device is simply an excuse to tell half a dozen short stories. But the very lightness of the premise gives the film a kind of freedom. We glimpse revealing moments in lives, instead of following them to one of those manufactured movie conclusions that pretends everything has been settled.
The bill originally finds its way into the hands of a street person (Linda Hunt), who is sure it will win her the lottery. Along the way it becomes a wedding gift, given to the groom (Brendan Fraser) by his wealthy future father-in-law (George Morfogen), as a warning that riches will not fall from trees. Then it finds its way into the garter belt of a stripper (Melora Walters) at the groom's bachelor party, and from there it indirectly leads to the best of the film's vignettes.
That's the one involving Christopher Lloyd (the mad inventor in the "Back To The Future" movies) and Steve Buscemi, who run into each other by chance. Lloyd asks Buscemi if he'll help him out with a few jobs he had in mind. He wants to pull some stickups. Buscemi thinks he's crazy, but isn't reluctant to go along, and then the caper takes on a crazy logic of its own.
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