Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Director/writer commentary. Alternate
endings. National Film Theatre Q&A session. Making of. Deleted
scenes. Music video. Weblink.
HAVING produced the likes of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
and Snatch, it almost seems logical that Matthew Vaughn should
opt for another British gangster movie to make his directorial
What's surprising, however, is just how slick, accomplished and
downright worthy an entry into the crime genre that Layer Cake
The film isn't content to follow in Lock, Stock's loud, bloody
footsteps, opting instead for a more cinematic approach, which
sources Michael Mann and Brian De Palma for much of its inspiration.
That's not to say there aren't Cockney gunmen running around
shouting obscenities at every opportunity, but they are kept to
To the fore, instead, is the multi-layered facets of JJ Connolly's
ultra-complex crime novel, which finds Daniel Craig's nameless
London coke dealer looking to go straight, only to find himself
being pulled deeper and deeper into the murky underworld in which
First off, he must negotiate a deal for a million stolen ecstasy
tablets, on behalf of Kenneth Cranham's unstable crime lord, and
then find the drug-addicted daughter of said boss' friend.
Yet each task comes complete with complications, most notably
in the form of some vengeance-seeking Eastern European gangsters,
who want to kill anyone connected with the original theft of the
ecstasy tablets, and from Michael Gambon's rival crime-lord, who
wants in on the action.
Craig is therefore forced to become
a player, rather than the middle-man he has always been content
to remain, even if this means getting his hands dirty into the
And while the premise may sound a little familiar, it's the execution
of proceedings that makes Layer Cake so noteworthy.
Vaughn opts for story and characterisation above visual gimmickery
and mindless violence, keeping things lively and interesting even
when the many convoluted strands of the plot threaten to spiral
out of control.
There are violent moments, including a particularly vicious beating
set against Duran Duran's Ordinary World, but it's in
keeping with the tone of the movie, and never feels as gratuitous
as it sometimes does in Guy Ritchie's movies.
All of which means that his actors are given the space to breathe.
In Craig, especially, the film has a terrific leading man, someone
to carry viewers through proceedings with an easy-going charisma
that expertly balances the fear of his predicament with a growing
sense of confidence as a dealer.
While a strong support cast, including Gambon, Cranham and the
ever-excellent Colm Meaney, also adds extra weight to proceedings,
so that the verbal confrontations leave as much of an impression.
Yet Layer Cake, as a whole, is an extremely accomplished affair
that not only marks a terrific directorial debut for Vaughn, but
which provides Craig with the multi-plex friendly central role
that he has long deserved.
Crime fans should certainly make sure they get a slice of the