Layer Cake (2004)

Layer Cake is a stylish British crime drama in the vein of Guy Ritchie. In fact, first-time director Matthew Vaughn previously produced a number of Ritchie films, including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Though some have dismissed Layer Cake as a mere clone of those works, after seeing the film a handful of times, I can safely say that it ranks among my favorite films.

The film follows an unnamed protagonist, played by Daniel Craig in a pre-Bond (but very portent of his Bond portrayal) role, who’s a drug “businessman” planning on an early retirement. Before he can, though, he’s called on to do two final jobs, each leading to discoveries of conspiracies and betrayals. The film’s title should not be disregarded: There are so many layers to the situations Craig finds himself in that repeat viewings are entirely warranted.

The film is unlikely to get boring even with multiple viewings because of its intelligent. It might even be a little too intelligent; many people I’ve watched it with have gotten lost among the film’s numerous characters, plot revelations and stylized storytelling. This is not something to be put on for background entertainment, but the requisite attentive viewing will be more than rewarding.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to get captivated. Scenes are immersive, whether through intensely personal subjective views or through the very fluid long shots that follow characters incessantly. One scene in this film happens to be my favorite movie scene of all time. With a major turn, the audience is transported to the psyche of another character being brutally beaten. Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” floods the soundtrack of the film, then goes in and out as the victim with which we are identifying loses consciousness. The scene ends with a dazzling spinning shot, a perfect dry line of hilarity, and a symbolic parting shot of XXXX and his partner.

The film sports an enjoyable soundtrack, high energy from start to finish, and delightful criminal performances. Craig is one of my favorite action heroes; he manages to be a tough badass while also being intelligent and rational. All of the actors around him are equally suited for the role. Michael Gambon, now mostly familiar to audiences as Dumbledore, is a fantastic spitting powerforce. But it might be Jamie Foreman who leaves the deepest impression on the camera, his psychotic and arrogant Duke generating appropriate revolt and disgust.

Anyone who can pay attention for two hours and wants to be entertained by a film should fall in love with this movie. Managing to be equal parts brain and style, Vaughn’s directorial debut surpasses the quality of the Guy Ritchie films to which it will always be compared to. There’s hardly any negative things I can say about this movie, and I recommend it to everyone I can.

Final rating: 9.5/10

–James A. Janisse

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One response

  1. Pingback: Kick-Ass (2010) « The Analytic Critic

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