- Directed by Matthew Vaughn
- October 1, 2004
A successful cocaine dealer that plans on retiring finds such a thing easier said than done.
Two types of movies largely come from Britain: quirky comedies and complicated crime dramas. Layer Cake is the latter and it is especially complicated. But then again with a name like “Layer Cake” you would expect that. There are many moving parts and numerous twists throughout.
The story is about an unnamed drug dealer (never named in the film and referred to in the credits as “XXXX” and played by Daniel Craig) with a plan to get out of his criminal life at some point and retire. An unnamed central character is rather unusual for a movie. I think the only other film I can recall that does that is They Live and he gets a name in the credits.
We watch as XXXX weaves a complicated web to come out on top. You might need to take notes at times to follow what happens and all the characters. British crime dramas have the benefit of making each character unique amongst the other characters. Even background characters have something that helps them to stand out in a little bit. This particular film is no different.
We have a well-chosen cast fleshing out the film. Sienna Miller plays XXXX’s eventual lover Tammy. Amazingly talented character actor Colm Meaney is Gene who is an Irish gangster that serves as XXXX’s liaison to local mob boss Jimmy Price played by Kenneth Cranham. George Harris, a veteran of many high-profile productions, is Morty who is XXXX’s partner and enforcer. Jamie Foreman is a low-level drug dealer known as the Duke. The great Michael Gambon is wealthy crime lord Eddie Temple. Tom Hardy has a small role as Clarkie. Ben Whishaw, who would go on to appear with Craig in the Bond films as Q, is The Duke’s nephew Sidney. Matt Ryan, best known for his role as Constantine on television, shows up as an unnamed junkie.
This is cast a pretty solid cast. The biggest waste though is Sienna Miller. She has billing on the poster but really does nothing too important. Her main reason for being in the film is for one character’s motivation at the very end but everything her character does up to that point could have been accomplished with a no-name actress.
Layer Cake is said to have been Daniel Craig’s audition for James Bond. I am not necessarily seeing it here but if it was it was not a bad audition at least as far as acting skills go. Craig is very good as XXXX. He is a charming guy that you can identify with and you eventually come to hope is successful in his goal as the obstacles to success mount and the situation becomes more complicated.
Layer Cake has a very good soundtrack with popular songs sprinkled in amongst the incidental music. “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran and “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones are two easily recognizable highlights.
The dialogue is just great and communicate more than is said. Beneath any pleasantries or niceness it is communicated that these are truly terrible people. XXXX is probably the best of the group and he is a pretty terrible person when it comes down to it. And of those that are openly evil they are clearly far more dangerous than they appear on the surface.
Layer Cake is a good movie that you can watch as much for the performances as you do for the actual story. You will enjoy it on many layers.