Layer Cake

"Excellent"

Layer Cake Review


Matthew Vaughan, producer behind the entire Guy Ritchie oeuvre (Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, and... er... Swept Away), makes his directorial debut with Layer Cake, another tale from the British criminal underworld that thankfully avoids any association with aging pop icons. Instead, Vaughan opts to take some of the elements of Ritchie's earlier work - colorful deviants, dark humor, Seinfeld-esque coincidence - and give them his own, slightly more somber spin. The result is an engaging 104 minutes that stakes its own claim on the genre.

Daniel Craig is credited as "XXXX" (oh, if only he were the new "XXX"), a "businessman," as he puts it, whose name we never learn. His business just happens to be cocaine. He plays by a strict set of rules - pay connections on time; keep a low profile, etc. And, like every other lowlife with whom we're supposed to sympathize in a gangster film, he's just about to retire. Until his boss, Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) throws him two curveballs that shoot his plans all to hell.

Jimmy wants XXXX to find the missing daughter of one of Jimmy's old friends, wealthy tycoon Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon). At the same time, Jimmy has also set up a deal where XXXX is to buy a million pills of ecstasy from The Duke (Jaime Forman), an unsavory and decidedly flashy dealer (two qualities XXXX abhors). Neither of these missions is what it seems, and soon XXXX is lost in a world of double-crossing crime lords, Serbian vendettas, and blonde vixens (well, one to be exact, but in a film with only three female roles, that will have to do).

In a Guy Ritchie movie, the mishaps and betrayals XXXX encounters would be approached with a sort of murderous glee. Here, the tone is a little more serious, though Vaughan makes room for the occasional morbid jest. Colm Meaney, as Jimmy's devoted lieutenant Gene, delivers plenty of laughs, sometimes with nothing more than a sideways glance during a murder. But the overall mood suggests a traditional noir, with plenty at stake for the protagonist, and plenty of menace coming from his adversaries.

This shift in tone extends to another trick Vaughan lifts from Ritchie - ironic use of pop music. In Snatch, Mrs. Ritchie's "Lucky Star" scores the car-dragging of a criminal, and, in essence, makes the scene pretty damn funny. Here, a brutal beating (intercut with the gunning down of key characters) unfolds to the strains of Duran Duran's "Ordinary World." The effect, though, is more jarring, as the soundtrack itself skips with every other blow that lands.

The casting is near perfect. Gambon effuses the right balance of class and sleaze as double-dealing entrepreneur Temple. George Harris nicely underplays his role as XXXX's right-hand-man-with-a-past Morty. And as XXXX, Craig carries the film ably, vividly conveying the anguish of a man who, for the first time, has to deal with the messy side of his chosen profession. It doesn't hurt that Ritchie alums Jason Flemyng (whose single line in the film is one of the best) and Dexter Fletcher make appearances as well.

Screenwriter J.J. Connolly smoothly adapts his own novel, interweaving multiple plotlines while making room for voluminous exposition. There's a lot of backstory here, but Vaughan's flourishes and the actors' sharp delivery makes that aspect just as entertaining.

In the end, the somewhat more mature mood of Layer Cake suggests that perhaps Vaughan is going for something a little more than just having fun with expletives and bullets. Buried somewhere in there (and explained maybe a little too clearly near the end) is a commentary on corporate culture (the "layer cake" in question). The confection that results is a must for those who like their tough talk delivered with an English accent.

The DVD includes deleted scenes, two alternate endings, a commentary track, Q&A with Craig, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Aka L4yer Cake. Reviewed at the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival.

How about some tea, too?



Layer Cake

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Friday 1st October 2004

Box Office USA: $2.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $2.3M

Budget: $8M

Distributed by: Sony Classics

Production compaines: Sony Pictures Entertainment, Marv Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 109 Rotten: 26

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as XXXX, as Gene, as Morty, as Slasher, as Jimmy Price, as Duke, as Tammy, as Eddie Temple, as Sidney, Dragan Mićanović as Dragan, as Clarkie, as Shanks, Louis Emerick as Trevor, as Cody, as Terry, as Larry - Crazy

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

After the formulaic thrills of The Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron, Marvel's Avengers were...

Son of Saul Movie Review

Son of Saul Movie Review

From Hungary, this year's Oscar-winning foreign film is a remarkably fresh take on the Holocaust...

Demolition Movie Review

Demolition Movie Review

With its darkly emotive themes and brittle humour, this well-made drama by Jean-Marc Vallee (Dallas...

Bastille Day Movie Review

Bastille Day Movie Review

An attempt to muscle in on Luc Besson's Taken-style of thriller, this is an odd...

Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later Movie Review

Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later Movie Review

Expectations are a problem with this year's Secret Cinema event. After the jaw-dropping, goosebump-inducing surprises...

Jane Got a Gun Movie Review

Jane Got a Gun Movie Review

With its grindingly low-key tension and unusual perspectives, this Western has a chance to revamp...

Criminal Movie Review

Criminal Movie Review

Almost criminally entertaining, this preposterous thriller mixes buckets of humour and emotion into the violent,...

Advertisement
The Jungle Book Movie Review

The Jungle Book Movie Review

Using remarkably photorealistic animation, this remake of the 1967 Disney classic is warm and enjoyable,...

Eye in the Sky Movie Review

Eye in the Sky Movie Review

Almost forensic in its approach, this smart thriller explores a drone strike from a variety...

Midnight Special Movie Review

Midnight Special Movie Review

Gifted director Jeff Nichols takes on another genre in his fourth film with actor Michael...

Boulevard Movie Review

Boulevard Movie Review

This dark, introspective drama hinges on one of Robin Williams' final film performances before his...

The Huntsman: Winter's War Movie Review

The Huntsman: Winter's War Movie Review

Aside from success at the box office, there was nothing about 2012's rather uneven fantasy...

Black Mountain Poets Movie Review

Black Mountain Poets Movie Review

It's fairly obvious that the cast and crew began making this film with only the...

Victoria Movie Review

Victoria Movie Review

One of the most breathtaking films of the year, this ambitious story shifts from a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.