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LAYER CAKE (2005)

Director & Producer: Matthew Vaughn

Screenplay: J.J. Connolly (adapted from his own novel of the same title)

Cast: Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, Kenneth Cranham, George Harris, Jamie Foreman, Sienna Miller, Michael Gambon

MPAA Classification: R
Running Length: Color, approx 106 minutes

Genre: Gangster, Crime, Caper, Thriller

Reviewed by Cherie Jung

The main character, played by Daniel Craig, has no name. Or at least not one mentioned in the movie, so most critics and reviewers simply refer to him as "Mr. X." That's good enough for me. Mr. X is a successful businessman, preparing to retire early. His business? Cocaine. He's the middle-man. He procures the product on behalf of those who intend to profit from its sale, and gets it to those ready to sell it.  

It's a pretty nice set-up until something goes wrong. And when things go wrong, both ends of the deal bring pressure to bear on the middle-man...our Mr. X. Even though he didn't create the mess, everyone expects him to sort things out, make it right, and clean up any ensuing mess. That, my friends, is easier said than done, as you might imagine. On the one hand, the big boss is none to happy that some idiot from lower on the food chain screwed up. Those "low lifes" think they're being screwed by the Big Boss. Mr. X is left to sort out what is and isn't "truth" and then has to decide what to do about it, if anything. Thus, the layered cake metaphor.

I don't think this film was as popular in theaters as it is on DVD. It's become a cult classic, to hear some talk about it. It presents the criminals in a way that you can feel empathy for the guys, especially Mr. X but at the same time, no one is pretending that these characters are anything but criminals and what goes around, comes around, as the karmic saying goes. It's edgy and intriguing.

I've been a Daniel Craig fan since way before he did "Laura Croft: Tomb Raider." I first saw him in the filmed adaptation of Minette Walter's THE ICE HOUSE where he played a young detective investigating a brutal murder. His icy blue eyes and chiseled face lend a haunting quality to his performances, both in the roles of good guy, or as in the case of "The Layer Cake," a bad guy.

The secondary characters are well cast. Colm Meaney, one step up (or one layer up, to keep with the layer cake metaphor) from Mr. X, George Harris who covers Mr. X's back, Michael Gambon as an opposing crime boss, and various "low lifes" who look like they just stepped out of an alley in one of London's slum districts.

Matthew Vaughn is most known for producing the humorous gangster movies "Snatch," and "Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. I've only seen "Lock..." I found it okay, but not as engrossing as "Layer Cake."

I reommend "Layer Cake," especially if you like smart gangster movies. Also, I think the ending, as shown, is the most satisfying choice. I think it fits the movie better than either of the two alternate endings, which you can view on the DVD.

 


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