Starring: Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Sometimes you find yourself watching a crime-caper film that tries too hard at acting hip that it becomes ridiculously bad. Matthew Vaughn did a good job at keeping Layer Cake from crossing that line and brings forward an entertaining film about the English drug world. Daniel Craig does a brilliant job in the leading role and is supported by an interesting cast of characters. The movie does have its weaknesses but they’re generally forgettable. Layer Cake is a joy to watch from beginning to end.
Daniel Craig’s character (who remains nameless throughout the entire movie) is looking to end his career as a cocaine distributor. He’s already worked out his retirement plan and wants to get out as soon as possible. He’s asked by his boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) to track down Charlie, the teenage daughter of Price’s business partner Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon), who appears to be in some trouble. Although it seems like a weird request by Price considering that Craig’s character’s line of work involves drug distribution and not finding people, it seems like an easy job for Craig’s character.
However, things quickly turn ugly for Craig’s character. While also doing a job for Price that involves picking up one million ecstasy pills from a gangster with a wild side named Duke (Jamie Foreman), things go south. Soon, Craig’s character is being threatened by a powerful Serbian gang that originally owned the pills until Duke’s group stole it from them. Under the belief that Craig’s character is the mastermind of the heist, the Serbian gang puts pressure on Craig’s character to surrender the pills. As well, Charlie’s disappearance makes this issue even more convoluted. Along with help from his partner Morty (George Harris) and Price’s right-hand man, Gene (Colm Meaney), Craig’s character tries to figure his way out of this weird situation and retire from this culture once and for all.
The movie tries to act cool and does a good job at it, but there are some lame parts though. The fact that the main character of the movie (Craig) has no name feels absurd and smacks of trying too hard. It’s kind of silly seeing XXXX pop up during the closing credits as a character’s name. Another flimsy part of the movie is that The Duke’s group of idiots are so stupid that how they managed to outsmart the Serbian gang is almost nonsensical. Also, the character Tammy (Sienna Miller) serves hardly any purpose except at the very end. Her scenes throughout the movie feel like a waste and unnecessary. Additionally, the scene where Morty (George Harris) goes nuts and beats up his former partner in a coffee shop and is forced to go into hiding feels kind of awkward and serves as a weak attempt at throwing a monkey-wrench into Craig’s character’s plans.
However, these problems hardly hurt the film. The movie is engaging, fun to watch, and paced very well. It never gets boring and you are always kept wondering what is going to happen next. The relationship between Craig’s and Meaney’s characters is particularly interesting. Maybe it’s the chemistry between the two actors but had it been a movie with just the two characters interacting with each other, it would have made for just as interesting a film.
Daniel Craig is outstanding in this movie. He plays the lead role very well. You know that he’s not a good guy in terms of being an upstanding citizen but as drug dealers go, he’s not that bad. He does a great job at presenting his character’s rationale for acting the way he does. Even though Craig’s character is considered one of the best at what he does, he tows the line so well that it doesn’t come across as arrogant. He approached the character in a way that wasn’t abrasive to the audience. Someone else may have been cockier or jerkish but Craig enabled his character to be likeable while doing something that isn’t generally socially acceptable.
Matthew Vaughn set forth to make a slick looking movie about the drug underworld and pulled it off successfully with Layer Cake. It’s not perfect but it is still an excellent movie. Despite it trying to be very hip, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and tells the story in a very entertaining way. This movie should be watched by anyone who is a fan of British films, crime dramas, or good films in general.
This post was originally published on this site on March 6, 2010. The original review is intact with some minor grammatical changes and film stills were added for this revision.