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. 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. Having said that, Daniel Craig shows enough of the stuff that won him the Bond role. We've grown too used to seeing rain pouring and hackneyed clichés that have represented this country on celluloid. Very different to Lock Stock and Snatch. No, this really unfortunately ain't no Guy Ritchie movie, who still makes the best British gangster movies. 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.
I was surprised to learn that this was Michael Vaughn's directorial debut. A successful cocaine dealer, who has earned a respected place among England's Mafia elite, plans an early retirement from the business. There are no 'codes', or 'families' and respect lasts as long as a line. 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. 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.
Meanwhile, in Amsterdam, cocky gangster Duke Jamie Foreman has made a huge ecstasy heist but has stolen from the wrong person. 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. Where Richie's films were more of a comedic tone, Layer Cake takes itself more seriously, which is why you must pay attention to what is shown to you on the screen. But in the world of fiction this is a game you play with the writer for control over the causal dynamics of the world. If you like your crime thrillers racy, sharp and witty then forget Layer Cake. 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. 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.
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. The film uses the obligatory 'catchy' tunes from the past 2 decades, and uses the same type of framing of scenes as the genre. 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 actors carry the movie and in the end the movie also offers some nice and thoughtful twists, like you always could expect from a British gangster movie. There are no 'codes', or 'families' and respect lasts as long as a line. The direction style is good and the montage is solid. That's a minor one but you get the idea.
The film starts out nice and simple but as it progreses it gets quite deep and twisted. Not knowing who he can trust, he has to use all his 'savvy', 'telling' and skills which make him one of the best, to escape his own. Sienna Miller also shows she can act. Nonetheless, it is a stylish and entertaining one and keeps the viewer hooked right up until the final scene. Madonna, Guy Ritchie and there wasn't a single cast member that I could say I had seen before. Worth seeing for what it is but just don't expect too much. 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.
He actually bleeds when he is hit. 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. As soon as Michael Gambon's posh gangster turns up the film starts to meander all over the place. This was a blessing really because we all know that Ritchie would have just made Layer Cake a comical mockney fair. That was totally unexpected and worked so well. 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. 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.
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 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. . 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. When Morty is beating the crap out of Frankie in the diner, while the music Ordinary World by Duran Duran is playing in the background. Pero nada es tan fácil como parece. In the past year or so, we as the public have learned that we are mere cockroaches in a crushing capitalist country that vomits luxury onto the rich and powerful, and steals from the tax-payer.
Complicating matters are two million pounds' worth of Grade A ecstasy, a brutal neo-Nazi sect and a whole series of double crossings. Gambon, Fletcher, Hassan, Foreman, Healy, all of these and the others are all fine but none of them really make much of an impression. 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. Besides being boring it just left a bad taste in my mouth. I feel that the movie would had been a better one of it was even more brutal and straight-forward.
He plays a very dangerous man in this one, and you absolutely believe he is capable of doing very bad things. With a decent script and some absolutely superb acting especially Michael Gambon and Colm Meaney , this film has some reasons to really be enjoyed. He is a drug-dealer, but reluctantly resorts to violent ways. Kenneth Cranham, as Jimmy Price, is also another actor whose contribution is an asset in the film. But they seem merely to be bolted on for the sake of it and add nothing to the development of either character.