¨Always remember that one day all this drug monkey business will all be legal. I´m not a gangster. I’m a businessman whose commodity happens to be cocaine.¨
Layer Cake is the film that made Hollywood turn its eyes on Daniel Craig to become the next James Bond. Despite playing an anti-villain in this film, he displayed several qualities that we actually see in some of his recent roles as Bond. If it weren’t for Layer Cake, I can´t imagine Craig being considered for the role. But Layer Cake wasn’t just a breakout role for Daniel Craig; this was also Matthew Vaughn´s directorial debut. Vaughn who had previously produced some of Guy Ritchie´s work including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch was heavily influenced by his directing style and Layer Cake is living proof of that. After the success Vaughn had with this film he went on directing different projects like Stardust, Kick-Ass, and X-Men First Class, which in my opinion were superior to Layer Cake. In Layer Cake I felt, Vaughn took a lot of things from the British criminal genre that Ritchie made famous, but in his next movies he was able to break free and try new things. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a good time with this crime thriller, but I felt like it didn’t stand out from the rest of the films in this genre besides Craig´s superb performance. The film requires its audience to play close attention to the story because several things are happening at once and at times I felt the pace of the film was a bit rushed. There were way too many things going on to fit everything in a 100 minute movie. The screenplay was based on J.J. Connolly´s successful novel.
The story centers on a cocaine dealer who considers himself a businessman and not a gangster. He´s working as sort of a middle man between the underground wholesalers and street dealers. He´s not named, but the credit roles call him XXXX (Daniel Craig). XXXX is a very intelligent and cautious businessman who knows what he´s doing, but happens to work for very dangerous people who sometimes get him into trouble. He´s planning on retiring from the business, but before he can do so his boss, Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) asks him to locate Charlotte Ryder (Nathalie Lunghi), who happens to be the daughter of another powerful underground mob leader named Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon). XXXX works alongside with Gene (Colm Meaney) and Morty (George Harris) who watches his back, but he also has two other employees who work for him: Clarkie (Tom Hardy) and Terry (Tamer Hassan). Everything gets complicated for XXXX when a group of junkies steal two million pounds worth of ecstasy pills from a wholesaler named Dragan (Dragan Micanovic) and he´s forced to find and give back the drugs. The person who stole the drugs is Duke (Jamie Foreman), and he´s not willing to give them back. While Duke´s hiding out, XXXX encounters his nephew and ends up falling for his girlfriend, Tammy (Sienna Miller), making matters even worse. XXXX will soon find out that the British mob is like a cake which consists of several different layers.
The film has so many characters and different thing going on at the same time that it’s very difficult to follow everything. Layer Cake is a bit too complicated and messy, but it is still a great crime thriller in which Daniel Craig gives a very solid performance. The rest of the characters don’t get too much screen time. Sienna Miller is much underused here and her character doesn’t bring much to the film. I love Tom Hardy as well but he has almost nothing to work with here and goes unnoticed as well. Michael Gambon and Colm Meaney give the best supporting performance in my opinion, but the rest of the cast is totally forgettable. We´ve seen many crime thrillers and this one doesn’t stand out from the rest. It is above average but nothing groundbreaking in my opinion. I love Vaughn´s films, but this is probably my least favorite film of his.