(released May 2005)
From the novel by
MPAA Rating: R
Reviewed by H. W. Moss
"When I was born the world was a far simpler place," our nameless narrator (Daniel Craig) explains in voice over in the opening scenes of "Layer Cake," a British crime thriller that takes us into an international under world of drugs, betrayal and casual killing. Then he adds, "I'm not a gangster. I'm a business man whose product happens to be cocaine."
Craig's character is clean cut, well dressed, intelligent and polite. But he is also a large scale drug dealer hiding behind the professional facade of a real estate agency. He makes so much money it must be laundered and his plan is to retire before the police catch on to him. But this relatively uncomplicated life becomes a dangerous labyrinth of plots and sub-plots, thus the title, when Jimmie Price (Kenneth Cranham), purportedly at the top of the drug pyramid, demands help locating an old friend's daughter who is hooked on nose candy and gone missing. Things go from complicated to downright dangerous when he and his cohorts become the targets of an assassin after they are named as buyers of a million ecstasy pills that have been stolen from their Amsterdam manufacturer.
"Layer Cake" is a well-paced action film with an ironic sense of humor flowing from the incongruity of such pleasant characters being so ruthless. Gene (Colm Meany) casually offers our hero a gun for defense and opens a cabinet in his apartment that is stocked with an arsenal of weaponry. Morty (George Harris) is dapper, clear headed and calm with one exception. That one exception is when he goes berserk and very nearly kills fat Freddy (Ivan Kaye) with boot kicks to the head.
This is Matthew Vaughn's directorial debut and he creates an interesting opening sequence as well as thoughtful cutaways and segues between scenes. The screenplay was written by the J. J. Connolly which he adopted from his novel. It is hoped Connolly was able to retain authorial integrity and fully realize his characters.
Craig has had parts in "Road to Perdition" (2002) and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" (2001) but is probably most memorable to audiences of PBS which aired the British TV crime drama, "The Ice House" (1997). He also played Werner Heisenberg in "Copenhagen" (2002). Craig has a penchant for playing smart characters and this is no exception. A good example is near the beginning when we are advised to know our enemy and he adds, "It is only very very stupid people who think cops are stupid."
If the British have a different sense of humor, they also have a different sense of murder which becomes obvious in "Layer Cake."
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