Gangster Movie Month: "Layer Cake" Review

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A successful cocaine dealer who's earned a respected place among England's mafia elite plans early retirement from the business. However, the mob's big boss hands down a tough assignment. He must find a missing rich girl, who happens to be the daughter of one of his employer's pals. Starring Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, Kenneth Cranham, George Harris & Jamie Foreman.
3.5

Gangster Movie Month: "Layer Cake" Review

-- Rating: R (For strong brutal violence, sexuality, nudity, pervasive language, and drug use)
Length: 105 minutes
Release Date: June 10, 2005
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Genre: Crime, drama, and thriller

In the British crime thriller "Layer Cake," a successful cocaine dealer's plans to retire are thwarted when his boss hands him two tough assignments. The movie is based on a novel by J.J. Connolly. It was produced and directed by Matthew Vaughn.

In the film, XXXX (portrayed by Daniel Craig) makes his money by dealing cocaine in London. XXXX is unique in that he considers himself like a businessman, and not a drug dealer. In fact, he dislikes guns to the point that he delegates all the violent aspects of his business to his colleague Gene (portrayed by Colm Meaney) and Morty (portrayed by George Harris), a former convict.

XXXX is planning to retire, but on the eve of the day he had set for his retirement, his supplier Jimmy Price (portrayed by Kenneth Cranham) sends him on two tough errands. The powerful Price sends XXXX to locate Charlie (portrayed by Nathalie Lunghi) who has run away from a rehabilitation center with his addict boyfriend. Charlie is he teenage daughter of Price's associate, Eddie Temple (portrayed by Michael Gambon). To help him track down the girl, XXXX seeks the help of two conmen: Tiptoes (portrayed by Steve John Shepherd) and Cody (portrayed by Dexter Fletcher).

The other job involves buying one million ecstasy tablets from the low-level gangster named The Duke (portrayed by Jamie Foreman), and distributing them. This second task is complicated by the fact that the pills had been stolen from some Serbian war criminals. Soon after, members of the Duke's gang began disappearing and turning up dead.

"Layer Cake" is a successful film, and it owes part of this success to the dashing English actor, Craig. Craig manages to portray his character of a criminal who is not a gangster quite successfully. Some people say that his emotional face, which he can use to show quite different emotions, is one of his biggest assets. All the same, it is an understatement to say that Craig's acting skills are good; he is exceptional.

Apart from Craig, the other actors are also phenomenal. For example, playing the part of a gangland baron, Gambon's performance is breathtaking; in fact, he outshines many other cast members of the movie. Those who know Meaney from "Star Trek" will agree that the actor still knows how to throw his weight around; his talents has been underused for some years now.

One of the outstanding things about "Layer Cake" is the reality around which it is created. Keen gangster movie fans will agree that most films in this category do not show the high anxiety experienced by those living the criminal life, but that is not the case with "Layer Cake." The movie even includes enough spins to keep thrill seekers n the edges of their seats for its entire duration.

If the cast members of "Layer Cake" are exceptional, so is the production team of the movie. It should not be forgotten that Matthew Vaughn, together with Guy Ritchie, provided the director/producer team that made the incredible British gangland films "Snatch" and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels." The team then broke up for some independent work, but their geniuses have continued to show. Some people are saying, however, that it was the incredible success of "Layer Cake" that propelled Vaughn as a successful director.

Some critics, however, are saying that British gangster movies have started being boring. This group of critics is comparing this class of films to the British romantic comedies of the 1990s, which filmmakers overmilked. It might be true that Hollywood is in the habit of churning out remakes by their dozens, but that should not be a problem when a movie is as unique as "Layer Cake." In fact, for "Layer Cake," only the premise (British gangster in a quagmire) is familiar; the rest of the movie is fresh.

In the end, "Layer Cake" is a quite entertaining film. The cast, direction, and cinematography are all great. Though it is a serious movie, it does not lack a few laughs here and there to relieve the tension. The dialogue is not bad too, so those who love smart movies will not be disappointed too. If there is any slight about the film, then it has to do with the lack of originality mentioned before; and maybe, the overly complex script. These, however, are trifle points as far as entertainment and excitement goes, which the movie delivers in good measure. This is not just another British gangster movie; this one stands apart from the others in terms of class.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5