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Layer Cake (2004) Review

Time: 105 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence, offensive language, drug use and sex scenes
Cast:
Daniel Craig as XXXX
Colm Meaney as Gene
Kenneth Cranham as Jimmy Price
George Harris as Morty
Jamie Foreman as the Duke
Michael Gambon as Eddie Temple
Marcel Iureş as Slavo
Tom Hardy as Clarkie
Tamer Hassan as Terry
Ben Whishaw as Sidney
Burn Gorman as Gazza
Sally Hawkins as Slasher
Sienna Miller as Tammy
Director: Matthew Vaughn

An unnamed mid-level cocaine dealer (Daniel Craig) in London makes plans to step away from the criminal life. Before he can cut ties, the dealer’s supplier Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) draws him into a complicated pair of jobs involving kidnapping the teenage daughter of a rival gangster (Michael Gambon) and brokering the purchase of a large shipment of ecstasy pills from a dealer known as “the Duke” (Jamie Foreman), leading to a series of elaborate double-crosses from all corners.

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Layer Cake was Matthew Vaughn’s first movie, before then he produced some of Guy Ritchie’s movies. It was very well received and put him on the map as a director to watch, with him very nearly directing the third X-Men movie afterwards. Although I saw it already years ago, I wanted to check it out again, since I was already rewatching some of Matthew Vaughn’s movies recently. It’s even better than what I remembered it being from my first viewing.

Layer Cake is written by J.J. Connelly, adapting his book of the same name for the big screen. It’s a pretty standard British crime thriller, albeit a very good one with some twists and turns. One could compare this to Guy Ritchie’s crime movies (especially seeing as how Vaughn was involved with Ritchie’s early movies), although there are some similarities, there are plenty of distinct differences between them, especially when it comes to the tone. Vaughn’s other R rated movies generally has a lot of dark comedy to it, Layer Cake on the other hand is more serious, more like a crime thriller and doesn’t have as much comedy. It for sure has some brief dark comedy at points however. It’s actually pretty riveting over the hour and 45 minutes runtime. I think the main reason that this all works really well together though is because of the lead character, which I’ll get into in a bit.

As good as a bunch of all this is, Layer Cake wouldn’t have been as great without Daniel Craig, who honestly makes this movie. Craig is outstanding as the unnamed lead character (not exactly sure why his name is never revealed), who in this movie is more of a businessman than a gangster, in fact he hates gangsters and violence. He also shows a very wide range of emotions as he’s thrown into so many situations that he’s struggling to keep alive in, and through his performance you can really root for the lead character. You can definitely tell why Daniel Craig was picked for James Bond, there’s a lot of Bond that you can see in his performance here. One of Craig’s best, if not his best performance. The rest of the cast also played their parts really well. The rest of the cast including Colm Meaney, George Harris, Michael Gambon, Tom Hardy, Ben Whishaw and Sienna Miller all play their roles very well. Gambon in particular was great as a ruthless and villainous sort of character, quite different from other roles that he’s had.

For a debut, Matthew Vaughn did a great job, it doesn’t look like his first movie at all. It’s all filmed and edited very well, the music choices were also perfect, he’s got a real great handle over the whole movie.

Layer Cake is an outstanding directorial debut from Matthew Vaughn, a well written and directed crime thriller, with Daniel Craig’s great lead performance really making the movie. It’s an underrated little flick that definitely deserves a lot more praise and really worth a watch if you haven’t seen it already.