Layer Cake

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, Kenneth Cranham, George Harris
Director: Matthew Vaughn

The great British gangster movie has been around for many years from the days of films like BRIGHTON ROCK with Richard Attenborough to GET CARTER with Michael Caine, to THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY with Bob Hoskins and LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS – and many, many more. Amongst these there have been many classics but alas also many instantly forgettable ones.

Now back to the business at hand, Mr XXX (Daniel Craig) is a very modern drug dealer, actually to put it as he would, he is a businessman and his commodity of choice just happens to be drugs. He is at the top of his game and his plan is to quit whilst he’s ahead, but then his main supplier/boss (played by Kenneth Cranham) asks him to find the missing daughter of another big drug lord (played by Micheal Gambon) and also to do a deal with a lowlife drug dealer called The Duke. The Duke just happens to have 5000 ecstasy pills in his possession so all XXX has to do is find a buyer and also find the girl, and then he is done or at least that is what it starts out as, but nothing is ever that simple. It turns out that the Duke stole the drugs from an ex-Eastern European general turned drug lord, and so now they have sent a lethal enforcer to sort out whomever was behind the duke, the person the duke named as his boss was none other than Mr XXX.

As Mr XXX is trying to deal with a situation that is getting out of control, he is forcefully taken to a very abrupt meeting with the drug lord with the missing daughter, where he is told two things: firstly that he is not happy that someone is looking for his daughter and secondly that his very own boss is actually a police informer and is in the process of handing him over to the coppers. Mr XXX must now find a way to sort out the ecstasy deal before he gets killed by the Eastern European enforcer, sort out the problem with his boss and decide to either stick with his original plan or stay and get a bigger piece of the layer cake.

Having produced SNATCH and LOCK STOCK, this is Matthew Vaughn’s first directing effort and he handles it perfectly. He builds on a strong central character, Mr XXX, who you feel compelled to go along with on his journey, as his great way of life and business quickly start to unravel. The story is well delivered, there is sufficient character development and there are some very classy shots of London. Interestingly the scenes with violence are not the focal point of the movie and overall Mr Vaughn has created a very convincing, refreshingly sober, gangster flick.

Daniel Craig delivers a very cool, understated performance that stays in your mind for some time afterwards and he handles the character of the man simply known as Mr XXX perfectly. There are strong supporting performances across the board from Colm Meaney, Sienna Miller, Kenneth Cranham and Micheal Gambon whose character gets the most memorable lines in the movie, “You are born and you take shit, you get older you take more shit, you get higher up in society you take less shit , as you get higher you take less and less until finally you don’t even remember what shit smells like”.

This is definitely the kind of film you should happily pay to see at the cinema!

5 out of 6 stars

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