Review by Mark Walters


It seems like British films are starting to have quite an impact on American audiences these days.  Directors like Guy Ritchie and Danny Boyle are opening doors for filmmakers in the UK, and showing us that Hollywood isn't the only place to look for well made movies.  The biggest film to come from across the pond recently is LAYER CAKE, which is thanks to the producers of hits like LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS and SNATCH.  Now those two films have definitely established themselves as great British crime classics.  So can LAYER CAKE carry that feeling on?

Sienna Miller and Daniel Craig can't deny their mutual attraction.

The story opens with a narrative about crime and how it works in the London underworld, told to us by a nameless figure (Daniel Craig) who knows what he's talking about.  This fellow happens to be a fairly successful cocaine dealer, who longs to retire and leave the business for good.  When a crime boss named Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) assigns him to find a girl, he feels like maybe this job will put him where he ultimately wants to be.   With the assistance of his pals, the job may not end up being that difficult.  But there's also the matter a pesky freelance dealer trying to sell some large quantities of ecstasy, which ends up interfering in everyone's plans.  When our hero meets a beautiful woman named Tammy (Sienna Miller), he becomes distracted, and things begin to get really complicated... like they weren't already.  The question is how much is he willing to go through in order to accomplish his goal.

LAYER CAKE takes us deep into the criminal underworld, showing us how easy it is to get mixed up in things no one ever wants to be involved in.  When it comes to crime, everyone has an agenda, and how you handle yourself can decide what all you can get away with.  Daniel Craig turns in an impressive performance as the lead.  He's confident yet vulnerable, and even though he's not exactly a good guy, Craig manages to capture our hearts, if for no other reason than watching all the crap he's put through.  The supporting cast is excellent, composed of a few recognizable actors, and many you may not have seen before.  But all the elements mesh together nicely.  Colm Meany plays Jimmy Price's right hand man, and proves he's much more intense than we ever saw on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION or STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE.  I was very impressed with George Harris, who I'll always remember as Captain Katanga from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.  He has one particularly great scene where he unleashes his temper on an old acquaintance.  Let's just say there's a Duran Duran song you'll never be able to listen to again without remembering that moment.  Michael Gambon turns up as a big time crime boss named Eddie Temple.  I love it when Gambon plays seedy characters, and this film makes good use of him in that type of role.  Dexter Fletcher also has a nice supporting role.  You may remember him from BAND OF BROTHERS or STANDER.  He's always great, and he's great here, even if he's not in it too much.  Sienna Miller, I have to say, is pretty dang hot.  One could easily think that throwing a female interest into a crime story like this is unnecessary, but it's done sparingly enough to not be distracting.

The film has some nice twists and turns, and holds our interest well.  It's directed by newcomer Matthew Vaughn, who recently got the job of directing X-MEN 3.  Personally I'm anxious to see what he can do next.  Vaughn has a great visual style, and proves here he can handle many characters in a story without screwing it up.  While this film may be somewhat similar to movies like SNATCH or LOCK STOCK, it manages to feel unique in many ways.  The story is pretty involving, and it never feels like a cheap imitation, which it easily could've been.  The nice thing about LAYER CAKE is it doesn't try to glamorize the criminal life.  It shows it like it is.  These days too many films have a tendency to make crime look cool.  This flick never falls into that trap.  Right up until the end, it never candy coats what is going on, and that's perhaps is it's most admirable trait.  Daniel Craig is the driving force behind this film's likeability.  He is just really good in this.  Before seeing LAYER CAKE I had heard rumors about Craig possibly playing James Bond, and I never quite understood why.  After watching him in this, I could definitely see him pulling it off.  In fact it could be a nice variation on the character, as he might bring a nice edge to that character we haven't seen before.  In the end LAYER CAKE is a really cool movie.  I enjoyed the story and all of the characters, no matter how complicated some of the plot gets.  Hopefully it will get a decent run in the states, since it would be a shame for people here to miss out on it. score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give LAYER CAKE a 9.

Visit the official Sony Pictures Classics LAYER CAKE movie website by clicking here.

  Layer Cake - Woman  (U.K. Quad)
Layer Cake - Woman (U.K. Quad)
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