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In short, see this film.
Youkilledmypine7 October 2004
After being cast as Bond, Daniel Craig's back catalogue is now much sought after. Although Craig came to most of the UK's attention with a stand out performance in Our Friends in the North, it's Layer Cake that showcases why he got the Bond audition. Perhaps now, this strong contender for the best thriller of the year may find the audience it deserves. Mis-sold as a more art house friendly addition to the Guy Ritchie school of crime films, Layer Cake is a unique and remarkable experience.

The plot is deceivingly simple and would wrongly be placed in the gangster-wanting-to-retire-peacefully cinema staple seen frequently in Al Pacino movies. It is a much greater accomplishment that the audacious visual style, superb script and excellent performances make easy comparisons to this film pretty difficult. If anything it is closer to Schrader's 'American Gigalo' where the morally questionable hero is engulfed in a situation going on around him. The predominantly male cast is faultless with everyone from Dexter Fletcher to Michael Gambon putting in superb turns to give the characters justice. Far more human than the cartoon stereotypes we've come to expect after so very many Brit gangster flicks. Craig has never looked in better shape for taking on Hollywood.

Hats off then to Matthew Vaugn for filming Britain as it can look. Grimy in places but every bit astonishing in locations as our Stateside cousins. We've grown too used to seeing rain pouring and hackneyed clichés that have represented this country on celluloid. It's not foppish. It's not Bend It Like Beckham. So there really is no excuse left not to see it (aside from the awful trailer). Layer Cake deserves a wide audience and there's more than enough of everything for everyone to enjoy. At times hilarious, astonishingly frank and incredibly concise the whole film is a pure joy and clearly made for people that love film. Makes you wonder why they can't all be as classy as this.
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A nice slice of brit gangsters
meako197330 September 2004
The trailers to Layer Cake left me with mixed feelings. Usually when a trailer needs to draw reference to 'one's we made earlier' (in this case Lock, Stock, and Snatch) when the writer or director of said films has nothing to do with the project, the end result is a poor copycat. After watching the film, I am more than impressed!

Layer Cake introduces us (once more) to the world of the cockney gangsters, and the dealing of drugs. The medication of choice this time is Ecstacy, and the set up involves an up-and-coming name in the dealing trade being thrown a job by one of the big names. Sent to find a missing girl, and also buy and sell on a large shipment, it all seems like easy work. However, as he soon finds, things are not always as they seem, and before long his life is at risk when the deal begins to go sour.

For the first 20 minutes of the film I couldn't decide whether it was going to be a Lock, Stock, or Honest (the dreadful All Saints film). The film uses the obligatory 'catchy' tunes from the past 2 decades, and uses the same type of framing of scenes as the genre. For the first 20 minutes, whilst we were introduced rapidly to the characters in the tale, it was hard to discern where the plot was going, and even harder to care much about the players. By the half way point I was engrossed! The plot twists and turns at various points throughout, and you do begin to care about the lead character and the associates around him.

The film oozes cockney cool, and although not quite on par with the best of the genre, it is still a worthy, and very engrossing, offering from director Matthew Vaughn. Stylishly shot, with a great soundtrack, this is one of those films that blokes will walk out of very pleased, but their partners may not feel the same way. Whilst not really violent or sexist in nature, this is a lads film through and through, and it is one cake that I want another slice of.
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Ultra Cool Classic
gregsrants6 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Seven years ago, I sat in a movie theatre with little to no expectations for the viewing of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, a British crime/comedy/drama from producer Michael Vaughn. I had never heard of the director (the future Mr. Madonna, Guy Ritchie) and there wasn't a single cast member that I could say I had seen before.

A few years later, Vaughn was back producing another Guy Ritchie film that put American actors Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro and Dennis Farnia amongst all the chaos in the British underground in Snatch.

Despite the low fanfare (they have since become cult hits), both movies were refreshingly fun flicks that ended up on my top ten lists in their respective years of release.

Now, five years since Snatch made a splash on North American soil, producer Michael Vaughn is back, this time behind the lens, for the new crime thriller, Layer Cake.

Layer Cake follows a cocaine dealer without a name played by Daniel Craig who is working towards his retirement from the underground biz. He doesn't see himself as a bad man. In fact, his voice over reveals that he is not a gangster. He's a business man. However, if Carlito's Way taught us anything it is that escape from a lifetime in the seedy crime world is not easy to dissolve oneself of.

And things start to go amok immediately when crime boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) forcefully delegates the task of finding the lost daughter of an old powerful friend to our protagonist. Reluctantly, but without option, the job is accepted and this begins the wicked spiral deeper into the drug and criminal underworld than he had ever hoped to venture.

Soon, there will be a drug trade gone bad, an introduction to a character named Dragon who lops off the heads of his victims, friends who will both have a drink with you and kick the living life out of your body in the same afternoon and enough crosses, double crosses and screw-you's to keep you riveted to the screen.

Much like Lock, Stock and Snatch, there are enough characters in Layer Cake to keep your head spinning. Vaughn doesn't try and spell things out for the audience and throws the kitchen sink at our small brains leaving it up the viewer to try and keep pace. Probably requiring a repeat viewing (if for no other reason that to try and understand what is being said under the cover of some very strong English accents), Layer Cake veers from the traditional cookie cutter type drug/crime caper by delivering a complex mix of violence and drama that is anything but packaged with a bow on top.

By the time we are introduced to yet another group of players, headed brilliantly by the always-reliable Michael Gambon, you may need a second to collect your senses and figure out which end is up. It was like watching Memento except with more lively characters and a story that's actually worth your involvement.

I was surprised to learn that this was Michael Vaughn's directorial debut. As a novice he was able to weave a complex web of multiple stories like a seasoned veteran in what I can only suspect to be a more realistic depiction of hit men and drug lords than anything Bad Boys waved in our faces a few years back.

Lacking the dark humor of Lock, Stock and Snatch, Layer Cake is more like Goodfellas and to some extent Reservoir Dogs than its two closest relatives (an ass kicking scene to Duran Duran's Ordinary World was reminiscent of Dogs' Stuck in the Middle With You). It's a film composed with characters that are so unique and interesting, yet violent and criminal that you don't know who to root for. Case in point, Gene played by Star Trek veteran Colm Meany. As Jimmy Price's right hand man, Gene is a gangster that wouldn't hesitate to put a bullet in your brain if so ordered, but portrayed as a human being who is just doing what he is told to survive in a world to which he is too accustomed. He is maybe the most charismatic bad guy since Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction.

Rumor in selected Trades is that Daniel Craig is the frontrunner for the Bond franchise if Pierce Brosnan decides to jump ship, and his performance in Layer Cake proves that he is up to the task. His steely blue eyes and Steve McQueen type looks can ensure that we haven't seen the last of him, and if we are lucky, in his next film his character will get a name.

Layer Cake is definitely not for all types. If you have problems following CSI, then this movie is not for you. But for those of you who do stick around through the reveals and character developments, I can assure you that the payoff is worth the investment. Layer Cake will be one of those films that in a few years, men will be talking about around the work water-cooler, using words like 'ultra-cool' and maybe even 'classic'.
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Chameleon Craig Does a Steve McQueen in Brutal But Sleek Thriller
dtb16 July 2005
After an art house release everywhere else in the civilized world, LAYER CAKE (LC) unexpectedly premiered in our area, the Lehigh Valley, at the $4 theater in Easton (this joint started as a second-run theater, but it's been getting some acclaimed imports and indies lately, too. Somebody there is a good programmer!). This British import, adapted by J.J. Connolly from his novel, is a taut crime drama that moves with the sleek menace of a tiger. Imagine THE BIG SLEEP with an ever-so-slightly more coherent plot and, as its protagonist, a prosperous, wily drug dealer looking to retire after one last score instead of tough but noble private eye Philip Marlowe. Our hero's problem is that he's a careful, calculating businessman in a dicey business where he's surrounded by loose cannons who shoot, stab, or punch first and ask questions later. Director Matthew Vaughn has been best known as Guy Ritchie's producer, but in his directorial debut Vaughn is like Martin Scorsese to Ritchie's Barry Sonnenfeld (that's meant as a compliment to all concerned, I assure you). It helps that Vaughn gets excellent performances from Daniel Craig as our cool but in-over-his-head unnamed antihero (usually films and books that refuse to name their main character strike me as trying too hard to be clever, but it works here), Michael Gambon nearly stealing the show as a cultured but ruthless narcotics kingpin, Colm Meaney and THE INTERPRETER's George Harris as our protagonist's partners in crime, and many folks from Guy Ritchie's films. Sienna Miller doesn't get to do much beyond being eye candy, but she's tasty eye candy indeed. I'm as heterosexual a gal as they come, but after seeing lithe, leggy Miller strip down to black lingerie and garters, I couldn't help thinking, "That Jude Law is one lucky guy!" :-) One of the things I liked about LC is that the protagonist, while thoughtful and competent, is never quite as clever as he thinks he is; somehow everybody manages to be one step ahead of him, if only because they're all so damned unpredictable. Though I've only seen Daniel Craig in three of his many films (the other two were THE ROAD TO PERDITION and THE JACKET), he's clearly one of those actors who never looks or sounds the same from role to role, so if he does indeed end up being Pierce Brosnan's successor as James Bond as rumored, it'll be interesting to see how he fares playing the same character in more than one film! :-) In any case, Craig certainly lives up to the "new Steve McQueen" rep that LC has garnered him. I look forward to seeing what he'll do next!
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Tiramisu, or ecstasy?
jotix10018 June 2005
"Layer Cake" the stylish neo noir film by Matthew Vaughn, making his directorial debut, shows a man with enormous potential to do much better in future projects. The film, based on J.J. Connelly's novel, is a study about the drug business by some ruthless people that are making a lot of money with their illegal commerce.

Point in case, the nameless hero of the story who figures he has played the game right and now is about to make an exit from the business. Little does he know that his friend Jimmy Price has other ideas for him to execute, no doubt driven by a desire to get him in trouble, as proves to be the case.

"Layer Cake" screams for a second viewing. In fact, it is probably a requirement because it will make things clearer to the viewer who might get lost in this story with so many twists and turns.

Daniel Craig is the best thing going in the movie. In fact, he kept reminding us of a young Steve McQueen because of his cool demeanor and how he seems to move effortlessly throughout the film. Kenneth Cranham, as Jimmy Price, is also another actor whose contribution is an asset in the film. Michael Gambon, leaner and tanner, is a cool drug lord who rules a vast empire. Colm Meaney also is excellent, as well as the extensive cast.

Look for the next film by Matthew Vaughn!
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Layers of Goodness
johnnyboyz3 October 2004
I was really looking forward to seeing Matthew Vaughn's turn at directing a film and what better genre to see him make his debut in than the British gangster genre especially after his roles in the fabulous 'Lock,Stock...' and 'Snatch' even though they were Guy Ritchie's.

Fans of those two movies may notice a few references in this one, most notably two of the actors used and some of the dialogue sounded fairly similar to a few lines out of 'Lock, Stock' but they didn't detract from the films quality. For a while, I thought I was watching 'Snatch' from a few years ago as the pace and the amount of characters that were piling up in the film was at times overwhelming. This may be the downside to many people's opinion of the film but I could cope. I realized the main characters, 'got to know them', and focused very much on them. Characters like 'The Duke' and 'Morty'; that way, I wasn't totally confused at first sight.

The acting was good and there are moments which creep along silently that will have you on the edge of your seat. This included the factory in Amsterdam being robbed by 'The Duke' and his cronies as well as the scene during which our main character: 'XXXX' is pinned down in a park by a psychopathic Eastern European hit-man whilst on the phone to him.

The acting is faultless and flows all the way through. When there are scenes which perhaps do go on longer than you'd like them to, the acting and dialogue just manage to keep them going to the end. The humour element is also there as I expected it would be. Most of the time they're 'chuckle to yourself' moments but there are two or three moments where you'll really find something funny and want to laugh out loud.

Overall, it was great fun and a damn good film. I think it can just about stand it's self up there with Ritchie's two acts of brilliance as a result.

I think you can tell; I enjoyed my piece.........
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Slayer Cake
carlosdev9 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Gangster movies used to be an American staple; during the heyday of Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney, they rivaled the Western as a particularly American film genre. These days, the British have been making some terrific gangster movies; "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (on which "Layer Cake" director worked as an assistant), "Gangster #1" and "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" are gritty and impressive in their own ways. In "Layer Cake" Daniel Craig plays a smart drug dealer who has made enough money to retire on and intends to do just that. His supplier, Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) has a pair of last jobs for him; to find the missing daughter of his close friend Terry (Michael Gambon), and to broker a potentially very profitable ecstasy deal with the volatile gangster Duke (Jamie Foreman). Against the misgivings of his right-hand man and back watcher Morty (George Harris) and his own better judgment, he accepts and is shepherded through the process by Jimmy's man Gene (Colm Meaney). Right away things spin out of control and get worse quickly. As with many of the best British gangster films, alliances are made and broken at a dizzying rate, nobody is who they seem to be and nobody can be trusted. Director Matthew Vaughn is impressive, even though there are a couple of moves that are kinda, well, ill-advised, he keeps the pacing fast enough to keep you off-balance much of the time. No wonder Fox offered him "X-Men 3," you can see he has an affinity for action. The cast is competent, and I've gotta say, I've always admired Colm Meaney, from his "Star Trek" days on down. He plays a very dangerous man in this one, and you absolutely believe he is capable of doing very bad things. The twists and turns get dizzying towards the end, and the final one comes literally from out of nowhere. "Layer Cake" illustrates the strata of British gang-world, from the wealthy bosses to the crack heads in the crack houses, and is believable throughout. Clearly one of the best of an already outstanding crop.
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Like a good cake, it gets better with each layer.
sith-79 October 2004
I was expecting good things and wasn't disappointed. It's been a while since I saw a good British gangster film. Layer Cake filled the void nicely. The acting was good, script was tight and the film was well cast. People I had not seen before were well used in their characters. The film starts out nice and simple but as it progreses it gets quite deep and twisted.

I was most surprised by Colm Meaney, I've ever only known him in Startrek.

But was superbly cast and had a quite menacing air about him.

LC has a few laughs for those with a more twisted sense of humour, it's not obvious comedy either and the film never plays for laughs. Very different to Lock Stock and Snatch. The director did well to move out from Guy Ritchie and make a serious film.
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Great showcase for Daniel Craig's talent - and solid entertainment
Flagrant-Baronessa10 August 2006
I can IMPOSSIBLY outline the plot of Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake, so I'll just say it's about a nameless guy (Daniel Craig) doing some criminal stuff in London.

In my observation there are three approaches to gangster characters in crime films: 1) The overly-amateurish 'gangsters' that are scared sh*t and mess up, like in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, 2) The kind of gangster who is an amateur, but picks up on criminal ways quickly and effortlessly if the occasion calls for it, like Max the cab driver from Collateral and 3) The stone-cold professionals who can do whatever, whenever with whatever, like any mob-boss, contract killer, etc.

What is so endlessly refreshing about Layer Cake (2004) is that it applies none of these approaches to its main character Daniel Craig. He is a drug-dealer, but reluctantly resorts to violent ways. He hates guns. Murders and violence disturb him. He takes time to cope with things. He shows fear and hesitation. He actually bleeds when he is hit. In short, he is an extremely realistic person and this facilitates the film's realistic atmosphere - there's no glossy visuals or over-the-top violence.

Now, it is my opinion that Layer Cake could have perhaps used some of the latter to spice things up. Its director is the producer of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and it is clear here that he is trying to move away from flashy Ritchie editing and effects as much as possible, making his own film just a bit too barren in order to be 'different'. It works fine, but as a result, the gangster characters aren't very funny or colourful - rather they are down-to-earth London men trying to make a living. A shady living, true, but still a living.

A few bland characters and an extra-template romantic storyline featuring Sienna Miller (I like her, but she is redundant in this film) drag this film down, but overall it is a very solid crime thriller, superbly acted by Daniel Craig. The score is great. In particular, please note the great use of "Ordinary World" by Duran Duran. Layer Cake isn't gloriously entertaining or anything but it feels very real and engaging and it is interesting to see the acting abilities of future Mr Bond - as well as his bare chest.

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Not Bad
moviefreakazoid30 September 2004
I went into Layer Cake with no expectations. Being honest, I found the trailer tedious the second time I saw it. I didn't like the whole cake idea, it was okay to a certain extent I guess. I did however enjoy Lock Stock and Snatch. Layer Cake is a different kind of animal.

Whilst Lock Stock and Snatch were more comedy based, Layer Cake has this more serious approach, no names flashing on the screen, identifying any of the characters, so you have to pay extra special attention!

There are several flashback/sub plots which don't particularly help as they can confuse you if you're not paying attention. There were many characters introduced to you in a short space of time and then suddenly going off at a tangent involving some of the 'slightly minor lead' characters.

You can see the influences of other directors in Matthew Vaughn's end product. The direction style is good and the montage is solid.

Daniel Craig gives a good solid performance. His narrative does help place him well in the movie. His narrative in the beginning is definitely something that draws you in. The rest of the performances are pretty good. Tamer Hassan has a minor role. After seeing the major role he had in The Football Factory, he can act, he should have possibly had a larger character. His character does not shine across as that 'demented' as that in The Football Factory. Sienna Miller was underused also, which was a shame.

Although there are some problems with the story, Matthew Vaughn has made a respectable movie. This being his debut, he has nothing to be ashamed of. As long as he works on the clarity of the plot more, he will have no problems securing full audiences. Layer Cake gives a good reputation to British films instead of the some rubbish released over the last few years.

I enjoyed the ending, it was good, I'm not going to say anything about it!

My rating 7/10
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poc-127 September 2004
This is a clever drug dealer movie set in the UK. It starts out with the main character (XXXX) and narrator cheerfully extolling the virtues of the drug industry when you are careful and organised like he is. He is about to retire with a nice little fortune. Then it all starts to go wrong, one thing after another as layers are added to the plot.

Sometimes it seems as if the plot is too complex and there are two dangers, one of leaving the audience behind and two leaving gaping holes in the plot. Still the humour and action set pieces are enough to pull it through. It is not as good as Snatch or Lock, Stock etc but is original enough to stand on its own right. Worth a look.
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An entertaining British crime thriller
roger-pettit116 June 2012
"Layer Cake" may not be a particularly original film. Its plot seems reminiscent of countless others, e.g. "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". Nonetheless, it is a stylish and entertaining one and keeps the viewer hooked right up until the final scene.

Daniel Craig plays a drug dealer (whose character is not actually named and who is referred to simply as "XXXX" in the closing credits) in London. He regards himself as a businessman rather than a criminal. He professes to a hatred of guns and violence and he goes about his lucrative dealings in a low-key manner and in a way designed to keep himself under the radar and out of trouble. His aim is to make some money and to retire to Spain or somewhere similar to enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten gains. However, his plans come awry when, on the threshold of retirement, he is asked by a powerful crime boss with whom he has done a number of deals in the past (Jimmy Price, played by Kenneth Cranham) to find the missing daughter of a friend and associate of his. That friend and associate turns out to be Eddie Temple (brilliantly portrayed by Michael Gambon), who is even more powerful, devious and ruthless than Price. It transpires that Price's motives in asking for his friend's daughter to be located are not as altruistic as they seem. Price also asks Craig's character to find a buyer for a huge consignment of drugs that have, in fact, been stolen by another dealer (The Duke, played by Jamie Foreman) from a ruthless Serbian drugs gang whose leader Dragan has a penchant for beheading anyone who gets in his way. Craig's character finds it difficult to say no to the powerful Price and so he embarks on a course that raises his profile and makes him enemies.

"Layer Cake" is a riveting film. Although its plot earns few marks for originality, it is a well- written one (by J J Connolly, who based the screenplay on his own novel of the same name) and is clearly and accessibly portrayed. There are several clever twists that are plausible and unexpected. I have seen so many films of this sort in which the plot is either ludicrous or does not hang together properly. That is most definitely not the case here. The direction is very good and Craig himself is excellent in the starring role. The supporting cast, which contains a number of well-known British character actors as well as stars such as Gambon, are all very good too. The soundtrack, which features British rock music by the likes of The Cult and Duran Duran and which makes good use at the end of the film of Joe Cocker's version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", perfectly complements what we see on the screen. There are some minor visual continuity errors. One such is that the injuries on the face of Craig's character after he receives a going over from his fellow gangsters for supposed disloyalty are not compatible with each other in succeeding scenes. I also think that the film's attempts at humour are somewhat misplaced. Here are two examples. Temple is portrayed as liking opera and in one scene is keen to complete a conversation so that he can get away to go to a performance of Berlioz's "The Damnation of Faust". A northern hit man, when travelling in a taxi with Craig's character, is more keen on practising his oral French in readiness for an imminent test than on a more normal conversation. These two scenes are presumably intended to lighten things up. But they seem merely to be bolted on for the sake of it and add nothing to the development of either character. These are minor weaknesses though.

"Layer Cake" is an entertaining film that is well worth seeing. 8/10.
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Convoluted and flawed
peter-ramshaw-122 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you like your crime thrillers racy, sharp and witty then forget Layer Cake. The DVD title is L4yer Cake for a reason that totally escapes logic unless it's an aside about the four (count 'em) plots cobbled together for this mish-mash of violent rubbish.

While it is worth a look, it fails to come close to the directors former works mainly because the thing is overwritten by half. There are too many similar characters, too many sub-plots and the whole storyline is so convoluted that it's extraordinarily difficult to follow at times.

Having said that, Daniel Craig shows enough of the stuff that won him the Bond role. However, he too is held back by a poor script and some silly pretension. Early on he says he hates guns, for example, only to expertly assassinate someone with a stolen one just moments later. That's a minor one but you get the idea. Sure, he 'agonises' over It later but it's simply not believable in the first place and so all the backpedaling in the world doesn't set it to rights.

The old, evil warlords (far too many of the similar type for mine) are quite fun in a stereotypical, flat fashion and the love affair (if that's what it is) between Craig and the blond bombshell is so badly handled (I'm assuming the director and screenwriter think it's cool and clever but they'd been playing with each other if they did) that it is simple also unbelievable.

In short, this is an interesting diversion but don't expect to be blown away by of it - especially the plot. Serbian mafioso chase stolen Ecstasy haul even though they've got a factory pumping out million of tabs a day? Give me a break.
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Very, Very Clever
trebor-124 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
A film that stands up to Lock Stock and Snatch. I preferred it to Snatch but not sure if it is as good as Lock Stock. It is a more powerful film dealing with bigger issues with bigger and very nasty villains, most are very clever but with some real stupid 'eastenders. From Dragon to the Duke.

A very clever and fast moving plot which some may find hard to follow. The layers of the film just keep on coming with more twists in the last 15 mins than any film I have seen. It has a very strong ending, which cannot be said for so many films, which go for a 'nice happy' one eg the only flaw in Micheal Man's Collateral, not to give the ending away -the killing should have been reversed?

Faultless acting, directing and photography, with the film starting off with a portrayal of drug dealing as just another business, but by the end of the film its a business that just deals in money and death. It has a very strong message concerning organised crime with a portrayal nearly as strong as goodfellas.

A fine film - 9/10
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Blown Away
pconn-482319 March 2019
As someone who likes to think they've seen a lot of movies, after I watched this I was almost embarrassed I hadn't come across it before. This film was lights out and immediately shot up my list of all-time favs. Sex, Drugs, Violence. Well-woven storylines, perfect soundtrack, and an all-star cast. Also, I'm no expert, but you could tell some of the filmmaking was first-class. Can't recommend this movie enough. 11/10
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Taking the Drugs
tedg21 November 2010
Warning: Spoilers
One narrative form is the con story. All of these folding tricks are there to engage the viewer, to trick him or her into investing in the story. The idea is that some important things you understand about the story, your platform for existence in the world you have entered, will change.

The representation is that they never were true, and that would be the case in the real world. But in the world of fiction this is a game you play with the writer for control over the causal dynamics of the world. You can win by besting him in creating the world, something that is allowed in the noir paradigm where the characters are at the mercy of dynamics created for our narrative needs. We know this is noir from the first few seconds with the narration and are reminded in the last few seconds where the character looks straight at you and says he is smarter than you.

That's the form. All else is a matter of negotiation, and that largely is a balance of how radically the writer can shift while staying within the larger rules of the world. For instance, if we are shown that something was all a dream with no warning, we get frustrated. Everything has to be fair within the set of rules we agree to in the game; sometimes the on-screen "detective" is also a negotiator in the rules. Often, as here, he is on the side of the writer, playing the con.

I found this to be on the far end of acceptable in terms of the shifts. They were only a bit clever, and they cheated a bit too much.

The rules, you see, are inherited from the rules among crooks. So all the shifts come from us moving from one world of crook ethics to another: we have the calm, friendly business world of our hero, the chaotic world of some junior opportunists, the simple violence of Serbian drugmakers, and the inner world of the upper class club.

The film is episodic movements through these worlds, each one coloring not only what happens but how the rules of what happens shift. This is a gamble by the writer, one that barely works. But it is clever, so clever.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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Decent British Gangster film, but not superb.
TheNorthernMonkee4 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers

Way back in 1998, a great British film called "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" was released. Directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Guy's friend Matthew Vaughn, the film was to go down as one of the greatest British films of all time. Six years later, and it is now Vaughn's turn to direct his own British film. With "Layer Cake", Vaughn has had his chance. This film, whilst good in it's own right, is still far from perfect, and inferior to Ritchie's effort.

Daniel Craig is an up and coming member of the British crime syndicates. Working for Kenneth Cranham's Jimmy Price, Craig's character cuts cocaine and is making a tidy sum off it all. With plans to retire however, Price has some jobs for him to do, and as events unfold, life gets increasingly complicated.

With a decent script and some absolutely superb acting (especially Michael Gambon and Colm Meaney), this film has some reasons to really be enjoyed. Sadly however, compared with some other British films, the story just doesn't click. With missing elements of "cool" about it, the story progresses at a dramatic and intense rate, but never with the jump in it's step.

There is relatively little else to say really. With decent acting and some superb scenes, "Layer Cake" had great potential to be the new "Lock Stock". Sadly though, with limiting degrees of class throughout the story, it varies in quality without really clicking. The film is well worth a watch, but never expect too much.
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Well shot and directed but flawed script
m.v.hermanni2 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
The Movie is very well shot and directed, all Actors deliver flawless performances, but the Storytelling relies entirely on arbitrary Plot Twists. Every 15 Minutes (felt) the Story runs out of Material and is by mercy of the Writers saved for another 15 minutes - for example by some new People or Information of "whats really going on" dropping in.

While the Movie starts with the classic Film Noir Motive (somebody is hired to find a missing Person which turns out to be a set up), this initial motive is soon completely replaced by the Chase for some stolen synthetic Drugs. And of course more and more dead people that die here and there, to remind that this is a Gangster Movie and not a Schnitzeljagd.

Ironically, the main Character first negotiates with the Seller (and Thieve) of these drugs, that they are not worth much - then he wants to steal the drugs himself. He finally succeeds in that. In the end the original Owner of the Drugs is shown how he runs a Factory with mass Production of these Drugs in Netherlands and actually does not care at all about the loss. They might really be worthless.

To Top this, the main character is shot dead by some unimportant side kick the moment everything just seems right for him (he outsmarted everybody, left the party at the right moment, got the beautiful girl).

Maybe this is the point of this movie: Every story ends by the death of its main character, because every meaning, every success is just his interpretation and there is no other end, it could go on and on.
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Heading For A Fall
seymourblack-129 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
A London drug dealer who regards himself as a businessman rather than a criminal, operates by a set of rules that he believes will enable him to retire shortly with the huge amount of money that he's accumulated. With a letting agency as his front and an accountant who systematically launders his money, he's convinced that he knows exactly what he's doing and says that "life's so good, I can taste it in my spit". In reality, however, because he's oblivious to the true levels of treachery that routinely permeate every layer of the criminal hierarchy within which he works; he's heading for a fall.

The dealer (Daniel Craig) whose name is never mentioned in the movie and is listed in the credits as XXXX unwittingly reaches a pivotal moment in his career when his boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham), calls him to a luncheon meeting and gives him two jobs to carry out. One is to find the missing drug-addicted daughter of his long-time associate, Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) and the other is to acquire and sell the one million ecstasy pills that are currently in the hands of a low-level gangster called "The Duke" (Jamie Foreman). It's from this point onwards that everything starts to unravel for XXXX as he discovers that the ecstasy pills had been stolen from a gang of Serbians who've sent a ruthless hit-man called Dragan (Dragan Micanovic) to recover their property and also to eliminate anyone who's involved. This puts XXXX in immediate danger because the Serbians had been given the impression by The Duke that he had been working for XXXX.

After he's surprisingly kidnapped by Eddie Temple's men, XXXX learns that, as well as having had an ulterior motive for wanting Eddie's daughter to be found, Jimmy was also involved in a major act of betrayal against his own criminal fraternity and a plan to relieve XXXX of all of the money he'd made as a drug dealer. Further revelations, betrayals and an act of revenge then follow before the full extent of XXXX's downfall suddenly becomes apparent.

"Layer Cake" is a complicated, character-heavy crime drama that's full of double-crosses, clever twists and dry humour. It's based on the novel of the same name by J.J. Connolly and in adapting it for the big screen, he's retained so many of the story's minor characters and subplots that the end-result is more involved than it needs to be and as a result, fails to consistently convey to its audience what is important and what isn't. First-time director Matthew Vaughn does a good job of injecting clarity, vitality and stylishness into the whole undertaking and its large cast of talented actors also do well with Daniel Craig, Michael Gambon and Kenneth Cranham providing the most powerful and memorable performances. Overall, the movie is gritty, violent and lacks any likable characters but its soundtrack is well above average with especially good use being made of tracks by The Cult, The Rolling Stones and Duran Duran.
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A Very Good Crime Thriller
freemantle_uk7 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This was the film that made Daniel Craig into a star, and shows that Matthew Vaughan was a talented director.

Layer Cake is a multi-layered, complex film, but is surprising easy to follow and a fairly short film: similar to a John Le Carre novel. The focus of the film is a successful middle-man cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig). He plans to retire young, but he is asked by his boss Jimmy (Kenneth Cranham) asks XXXX to find the missing drug addicted daughter of Edward Temple (Michael Gambon) and at the same time negotiate a large deal with a wannabe gangster The Duke (Jamie Foreman) who just stole one million ecstasy pills from some very angry Serbian gangsters. This leads XXXX in a dangerous world of treachery and double crossing and murder. This leads XXXX to doubt who to trust and what do to. As well, there are sub-plots involving a love-interest with Tammy (Sienna Miller) and XXXX's right hand man Monty (George Harris) gets revenge against the man who put him in prison.

Layer Cake is based on a novel by J.J. Connolly, who wrote the screenplay. He shows he could write a complex film. Originally Guy Ritchie was due direct but he had to put out because of scheling conflicts. This was a blessing really because we all know that Ritchie would have just made Layer Cake a comical mockney fair. What Vaughen did was he played the material as straight as possible, keeping comedy to a minimum and a made an good example of a British Gangster film. Vaughen shows that he could handle the material and do some stylist directing trick like a pro, fitting in with the film. Vaughen assembled an excellent cast. Daniel Craig was brilliant and according to statements by Barbara Broccoli, this was the film that gave him the Bond gig. Michael Gambon was excellent, and they were good performances by Colm Meaney, George Harris, Jamie Foreman and Kenneth Cranham. Sienna Miller also shows she can act. As well there is a great twist to the film.

I personally highly recommend this film.
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Energy and Irony.
jdesando8 June 2005
Layer Cake is a slick caper, noir import from England with energy and irony enough for both sides of the Atlantic. XXXX (Daniel Craig) is a very satisfied drug dealer, wealthy and in control of his little world. His initial voice-over, reminiscent of Ray Liotta's in Casino, has the bounce of a man who found his calling, from which he plans to retire.

Enter an uber-boss with a small job for XXXX to do: Find the cocaine-addicted daughter of an even more powerful lord. XXXX finds himself in a much bigger world of much tougher hoods, who don't respect his control of his world. The intricacies of this dense plot, with enough minor characters to start a clown troupe, are challenging because of too many ends not tied (What happened to the girl?) and those damnably beautiful but often incomprehensible British dialects. Anglophile that I am and English major that I was, I sometimes have difficulty understanding anyone in the film but the memorable Michael Gambon, whose thespian experience is so varied that he instinctively straddles the line between upper class diction and lower class cockney.

The real business of Layer Cake is business itself, how to conduct it, be successful, and get out alive. Advice such as sticking to a plan and being a good middleman takes a life or death cast to it and retains emphasis as those who don't follow the advice drop away in the film. The cake has too many layers to be underestimated.

Daniel Craig is rumored to be the top candidate after Pierce Brosnan for the next James Bond. Although most critics I know would prefer to see Clive Owen in the role, Craig is cool enough to make us all satisfied for a lifetime of intrigue and style.
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The Fault Of British Film Making Strikes Again
Theo Robertson13 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This was something of a sleeper hit and you can understand why it wasn't an overnight success on its release in 2004 . " Goodness me another Brit flick featuring gangsters haven't seen one of those since the last British film was released £ . Come to think of it that's what everyone in Britain would have said in 2003 , 2002 and well what year was LOCK STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS released ? That said LAYER CAKE sticks out from the Guy Ritchie clones because of its leading man and its director with Daniel Craig and Mathew Vaughn going on to bigger and better things . Deservedly I might I add and for the most part LAYER CAKE is superb but then like so many British films it falls apart. The cake obviously needed a bit more foundation in its making

It does get off to a great start where Craig's nameless anti-hero recounts his life of crime and right away it has social relevance as he makes a very cogent and simple point that drugs are bad but the criminalisation of drugs is much worse . This intelligent thinking is complimented by the use of intelligent language of cinema . All too often a British movie looks like it's made for television but despite having a relatively low budget Vaughn lays on an eye catching visual style that hypnotises the audience as we're told a tale involving a drug heist going wrong , Serbian war criminals on the rampage and a man who is willing to pay anything to find his missing daughter

So far so good but as stated like so many and too many films from Britain the first half can't keep up with the second half . As soon as Michael Gambon's posh gangster turns up the film starts to meander all over the place . Looking at the trivia section it says that JJ Connoly's novel was 344 pages long whilst his original draft of the screenplay was 404 pages so he effectively wrote the screenplay for a film lasting 404 minutes and has had to ditch half of it . This explains the unsatisfactory nature of the narrative and aspects involving characters and plot turns appear and disappear for no reason . The screenplay is if not a mess then at least over complicated to say the least

What stops the film being ruined by it - and which why it was a success with the critics who'd no doubt seen too many of these type of Brit gangster flicks - is that the audience will be swept up by the visual style of the film and its lead actor . It'd be very easy to say that it's style over substance and to be honest that's what it is . However the directing , editing and musical score is so good that all the flaws with the story telling can be instantly forgiven and forgotten
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The serious telling of a complex story is a nice change for this genre in the UK but the delivery is a little messy and the narrative doesn't work as well as it really should
bob the moo10 October 2004
We join the story in the hands of our narrator who is making a nice little earner packing cocaine with friends acting as middlemen to keep him out of the way of the users, the wannabe gangsters and the bosses. However when he is invited to meet Jimmy the boss, he is given two jobs – handling a shipment of pills brought in by the Duke and also finding the daughter of Jimmy's boss Eddie. Even though he wants to stay away from the sharp end, he takes the jobs and tries to deal with the Duke and his crew of Chavs. However whenever it becomes apparent that the Duke has stolen the pills and is leaving a trail of bodies behind him, he realises he is in over his head and that the jobs are not what he thought they were.

The trailer was awful but the reviews were mostly good so I decided to give it a stab even though I generally don't get the appeal of these geezer gangster comedies and all their copies. I was rather relived to find that this film was much straighter than the others that had come to revel in violence and swearing in favour of plot, but this is not to say that it is a great film just because it is different. It has a good story at its core but it isn't delivered very well and at times is just a bit too messy with too much going on. The complexity of the story is not a problem it is more a matter of it not all coming together as well as it should have done. Side issues dilute the main thrust (although they are necessary for the bigger plot) and they take away from the tension and urgency of the whole story. It still engages though but at times it feels unsure of itself and will occasionally feel a little long – fans expecting Lock Stock will be trying to laugh (as they were in the audience I was in) as they try to work out why it isn't funnier, while those looking for a more traditional gangster film will wish it would lose the modern style a bit, tighter the plot and make it more focused.

The cast was a surprise to me because I happened to have seen The Football Factory the other night and a great deal of them were in and around the support cast here. Craig is a very attractive man and he has good presence on the screen, but he finds his character difficult (heck, he doesn't even have a name) to read. He is cool but I would have liked more to him than the usual old 'getting out from under' stuff. Support is so-so from everyone else, they all just more or less fall into the tried and tested stereotypes – 'f*ck-rough chav', 'cool boss man', 'brutal middlemen' and so on. Gambon, Fletcher, Hassan, Foreman, Healy, all of these and the others are all fine but none of them really make much of an impression. The film is directed with restraint in comparison to Snatch and the like and I did like the way that Vaughn didn't just go for the empty style but rather directed pretty well.

Overall this was better than I expected but then I didn't expect much from it. The story is good but not that well delivered and often comes across as being a bit messy and hard to totally get into but it is still OK. As a British gangster film it is good and happily just not another Lock Stock clone trying to cash in, but it doesn't totally have its own voice. Worth seeing for what it is but just don't expect too much.
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Dull & turgid British gangster flick that has no spark.
poolandrews16 February 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Layer Cake is set in London England where a cool,calm collected man (Daniel Craig) is a middle man for drug trafficking but after making a million pounds he intends to retire. Drug lord Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) has one last job for him his cohorts, Jimmy wants him to negotiate a deal between himself & the Duke (Jamie Foreman) who has just stolen a million ecstasy tablets from Serbian war criminal drug dealers from Amsterdam & find a potential buyer as well. He does as he is told but soon finds himself caught in the middle of an international drugs war as the Serbs want their ecstasy back, big time gangster Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) wants the drugs for himself while it seems that our man has been caught right in the middle as everyone holds him personally responsible...

Also annoyingly known as L4yer Cake this British gangster flick (yes, another one) was produced & directed by Matthew Vaughn, it was written by J.J. Conolly based on his novel of the same name & maybe I was expecting another Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) or Snatch (2000) but I thought Layer cake was a dull & lifeless crime thriller that plodded along making me more bored by the second. For a start there are too many character's who are too similar, men in suits who swear a lot & act tough for instance, cocky young drug dealers & ruthless bosses & the fact that the main character played by Daniel Craig is so flat & personality free, I mean he isn't even given a name let alone any sort of background. Then there's the fractured plot which I found confusing as things would suddenly happen or change & there would be no time to take it in, it just seems to go from one situation or one set of character's far too quickly & it just ended up feeling like one big unfocused mess. Layer cake has to be one of the longest 101 minute films I have ever sat through. Unlike other notable British gangster flicks there's no comedy here, the over the top eccentric character's are nowhere to be seen & there's very little incident. I also want to point out that the plot revolves around drug dealers & I just can't agree with glamorising this activity, I know it's a film but it stresses the point that dealing in drugs is an easy way to make loads of money & it never shows the consequences of what drugs do. Besides being boring it just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Apparently Guy Ritchie was set to direct Layer Cake but he dropped out & it really could have done with his humorous & sarcastic dialogue, his pacing & his style of plot twist's rather than the lifeless dull affair we end up with. Layer cake is a lot, lot more restrained than either of Ritchie's films & boy does it tell, not a whole lot happens considering how long Layer Cake lasts. The title Layer Cake refers to the multi layered structure of the crime world, most people probably won't know that so that point will be lost on them. The film has it's stylish moments but too many long dull stretches, I saw this on telly after walking past a dirt cheap second hand Blu-ray in a shop for months & I ma very glad I didn't spend any money on it. As far as I am concerned it stay on that shelf gathering dust.

With a fairly modest $4,000,000 (Daniel Craig probably earns more than that per film now) this looks good & has nice production values but I doubt I will remember much about it by the end of the week. The acting is alright but restrained & Daniel Craig is surprisingly flat & lifeless & just doesn't seem interested.

Layer Cake is a film that I really disliked, the average user rating on the IMDb would suggest that I am in the minority but that's OK with me just so long as I don't have to watch Layer Cake again. A big disappointment & contrary to the IMDb user rating no-one I know who has seen it likes it either.
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Is drug dealing a game you can just pack your bags and be like "sorry mates I'm through"?
eYeDEF19 December 2007
Actually, you can.

In fact, true ballers high enough in the drug chain with any intelligence and foresight do plan to get out on their own terms. But due to greed, convenience, ego, fantastical thinking, love of living large, and myriad other rationalizations such a noble goal is unattainable to everyone but the most disciplined few.

Rare. But it does happen.

That's what I really like about Layer Cake and Daniel Craig's character in particular; he's sort of living out the ultimate fantasy of every enterprising illegal drug dealer on the planet with greater ambitions. He views his profession not as a lifetime occupation (who grows up wanting to become a drug dealer anyway?) but strictly a temporary means to raise enough seed capital to nurture his own entrepreneurial ideas into legitimate, commercially profitable enterprises. This happens more than you might expect in the real world as many successful companies past and present, all around the world, including perhaps a disproportionately large number in the entertainment and music sectors, received their initial round of funding through ill gotten gains. Well documented are companies where the founders themselves, ex post facto statutes of limitations, reveal the key ingredients behind their success in interviews, memoirs, or tell-all book deals. As Craig's character says with typical aplomb in his money line:

"I'm a businessman whose commodity happens to be cocaine."

From the beginning he spells out his recipe for success in narrating a few golden rules, teaching the uninformed viewer about a doctrine seared into the mind of everyone familiar with success in this very specialized industry:

"Always work in a small team. Keep a very low profile, only deal with people who come recommended. It's like selling anything: washing machines, hand-made shoes, blow-jobs. As long as you don't take the pis people will always come back for more. That's not to say we don't weave that magic that makes two kilos into three, but never be too greedy. Know and respect your enemy. It's only very, very stupid people who think the law is stupid. And avoid like the effacing plague loud, attention-seeking wannabe gangsters, in it for the glory, to be a face, to be a name."

I think of slinging for men much like stripping is for women. It's a young person's game since it's easy money, you can work your own hours, and is next to impossible for most people to get out of once you've experienced life in the ultra fast lane. And following the golden rules while founding, saving, and re-investing in legitimate enterprises while setting a cap on your earnings when you force yourself to get out and get out for good is the province of only the most driven, organized, and ultra-disciplined elite.

But it is possible, and it does and has happened.

Which is where Daniel Craig's character comes to play; as the living on-screen embodiment representing all the characteristics that should provide him a recipe to succeed as a member of this revered elite. Possessing his trademark aura of coolness in the film that would make him a future Bond, Craig infuses in his character the work of a natural; a cunning business acumen with the prescient ability to think a step ahead while maintaining a healthy dose of paranoia as required to excel in the game.

This player is so good, you're bound to even forget his name, except, when you discover that even an elite like himself will still be subject to the countless temptations, machinations, manipulations, and those pesky golden rules that always threaten to mess up his game.

And that's where the fun ride begins. Only the very ending, which, as a matter of taste and style some liked and others hated with my opinion siding squarely in the latter prevents me from doling out a perfect grade. But unlike some movies, the ending is not a fatal flaw since it doesn't ruin the rest of the movie. It's still well worth watching, especially to those looking for the future James Bond's precursory role. Peeling back the layers of intrigue of the Layer Cake(2004) takes you for an always engaging, very entertaining ride!

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