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Layer Cake Movie Review

originally posted many years ago

Layer Cake is a very fitting title for this film, as there are many 'layers' that are added to this film's plot as it progresses. Even when the movie is over, it's still building and would go on forever if the film would. It's one thing I really liked about this movie as it was all substance and that made for a very great movie going experience. It's an intelligent film, with crisp dialogue and top notch acting that provided for a very amusing and brain tingling fun film. Based in the United Kingdom, Layer Cake is a simple yet very intelligent film that I think many people will enjoy checking out. While it has the same feel of a Guy Ritchie film, Cake also is a very serious film and at times is brutally honest and in your face. And while Lock Stock and Snatch have more comedy to go with their action, Layer Cake has a more serious tone and doesn't try to stray away from that attitude. The film doesn't go out of its way to make sure you know everyone or even their names in this movie. Hell, some characters even though through the film unnamed! This means one has to pay extra attention to get an idea of what's going on, and how things eventually play out. A film that requires one to think about what's going on... what a concept!

This clever film revolves around one principal character that remains unnamed throughout the entire picture (listed as XXXX in the credits). He's a smart drug dealer who knows how to play his role and doesn't try to rock the boat. XXXX is not only smart, but very organized. He pays everyone what they're owed and never under estimates his opponents and rivals. This brilliant character is played to perfection by Daniel Craig (Road to Perdition), as he shows all the 'layers' that this character has to offer. When hanging around his co-workers and other thugs, he's cool, calm, collected and ready to make a deal that benefit him and his boss. But when things go wrong and he starts to face problems he's not used to dealing with (cause of really unprofessional people who don't know how things work), he starts to unravel a bit and show the audience that he's like everyone else. He's flawed and has fears that control how he works. This fear/paranoia leads to a lot of drinking, but eventually this middle man thinks his way out of the problem, doing his best to get the deal and out alive at the same time. XXXX is a really interesting character that we get to know as he faces some rather interesting challenged, I can't picture anyone by Daniel Craig doing this role any more justice.

The film has a very simple plot, but the cast take this simple plot and turn it into something spectacular. Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) is interesting as XXXX's boss. Gambon again plays another sleazy mob like boss. This guy is crooked in every way, a real snake that will turn in his own mother if it would bring a little profit into the bank. Colm Meaney almost steals the show as Gene, Gambon's right hand man. He's a thug in the highest order, and someone you really wouldn't want to mess with unless you want your head cooling off in the freezer with the fishes. I was also as impressed with George Harris' role as Monty, XXXX's muscle and most trusted co-worker. The scene when he beats an old friend almost to death is vicious, but when we later find out what happened you almost thing he was too nice to the guy. XXXX hangs out with some tough guys, but he's good to them and never cheats them. That kind of attitude went a long way and builds a lot of loyalty in an industry that rarely has any.
As I said before, the basic plot is really simple, but as the title would suggest more and more twists and angles keeps getting layered onto it... making it something extremely complex to the point where it can be downright confusing. XXXX is about to retire with a nice fortune but is unable to when his boss asks him to do something that is out of left field. And when things start to go wrong, one thing after another layers as problems are added to the plot. It's also a very fast paced film, which also might make it a little hard to follow. However, I don't think movie going audiences are that dull, and will have no problem following this film, and will enjoy the fact that its not being spoon fed to them like many Hollywood films go out of their way to do. There's nothing wrong with keeping some details in the dark and forcing us to come up with the answer. Secrets are what make average films something much, much better. I never like to have the entire plot spoon fed to me as if I were an idiot, so it was nice to see a film that never treated its audience like children.

A lot of credit for this film's harsh attitude has to go to director Matthew Vaugn for resisting temptation and not making this just another gangster film or another Snatch or Lock Stock. There were some funny moments, but the film wasn't looking for laughs and kept the tone serious and realistic look at Britain. Like every other city, even the UK has its grimy places but was still astonishing in other locations. It was nice to see that we were not forced to put up with the usual UK cliche of rain falling all the time, etc. It's also been a while since I've seen a really good gangster/crime film and Layer Cake filled that void quite nicely. The criminals in this movie never tried to glorify what they were doing, and we all very aware of how illegal their actions were, but the did it anyway cause the money was good enough to make the risk work taking. The film starts off with the drug instantly being portrayed as a business, something that would be eventually legalized like alcohol. By the end, we see a more grim idea of what kind of 'business' is going on here. It refuses to give the audience the kind of ending you think this kind of film should, making it the best film I've seen about organized crime since Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas.

Overall, Layer Cake is all that and then some. With a good cast and great direction, it's a fantastic crime film that I think many people will get a kick out of watching. The film has depth, character and substance coming out of the woodworks. It's a film that doesn't fail to deliver a few laughs along with a very serious and at times vicious story about crime and the people who commit them trying desperately not to get caught and right in the process. With great dialogue, good music and some kickass performances, it's a movie that will not disappoint for those who are looking for a smart, yet refreshing film. One of the best I've seen all year...

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