One of the questions movies like to tackle is “Can you be a bad guy and still get out on top?” The question is answered resolutely by Layer Cake in a couple of different ways. Some do, some don’t. But watching the bad men try and work through the tangled web of deceit provides plenty of comedy and suspense. Layer Cake is about selling drugs, theft, hired assassins, killer goons, hot chicks and everything that happens in between.
We might as well get the comparisons out of the way early. How was Layer Cake compared to Snatch? As Matthew Vaughn produced Snatch and directed Layer Cake the comparisons are natural, so here ya go; Snatch is a great imported beer while Layer Cake is a nice drinking Scotch. Both get you a good time, but they go about it in very different ways.
Layer Cake is complex and subtle, slow and deliberate. Unlike Snatch where the pace was of frenetic comedy, The laughs in Layer Cake are a little farther between, and its “menace” quotient is pretty high. Additionally, Layer Cake has a bit of a social message which adds to the just mentioned “menace.”
Daniel Craig is fantastic in this flick. He’s wimpy enough to seem like he should be scared but just smart enough to seem in control. I last saw him in Road to Perdition where he was solid and this work continues the trend. This is Craig’s story as XXXX, the unnamed protagonist. Why doesn’t he have a name? I think it has something to do with him wanting to stay anonymous but that particular joke falls a bit flat. Regardless, Craig is asked to carry the film and he does so with verve.
George Harris as the hired goon is also really well cast. He was good in a bit part in The Interpreter and he’s better in a bigger role here. Watching him beat the tar out of some fellow provides great fun, which leads us to our real story.
She’s only in about 7 minutes of the film. But, oh, those 7 minutes are simply heaven. Sienna Miller, my goodness… she’s hotter than the hinges hanging off the gates of hell. She makes you yearn for getting out of the drug game, settling down, and complying with her every wish and desire. Yikes. Jude Law, we salute you.
One minor complaint I have is the dialogue. It is thick accented English. I caught maybe 80% of it, but I had paid for a full movie. Oh well, I was going to get the DVD anyway so I can’t whine too much. The other issue some people will have will be the ending. Personally I found it effective and interesting, but each person will have to make their own peace with it.
Layer Cake is a worthy debut for Mr. Vaughn and gives me a ton of hope for X-Men 3. If a clever and modern feel is your bag then you will have a lot of love for the Layer Cake. If not, well there is always Sienna Miller to fall back on.