Sunday, April 10, 2011

Layer Cake

 After coming home from Paul I turned on the telly and caught the end of Die Another Die. I absolutely love the Bond movies and will watch each and every one of them to death. It was ironic that TV 1 followed it up with future Bond, Daniel Craig, in Layer Cake. Strangely enough I had never heard of it before Saturday night and intially I wasn't going to watch it. But when the Cult's Sanctuary opened up proccedings I was hooked, and I'm glad I was because this isn't too shabby a crime drama.

 I really like Englsh crime movies. I really liked RocknRolla from three years ago even though I'm not big on Gerald Butler. Also, The Bank Job, with the ordinary Jason Statham was quite a good recent release to. I think what it is about the Brits over Hollywood is the absence of guns. There are guns in Layer Cake but not to the extent a Hollywood crime movie would go to. Daniel Craigs's character even tells us he hates guns and only resorts to carrying one when things get seriously messy. It is so damn refreshing. The poster is somewhat mis-leading and the only gripe I have about the movie.

 Layer Cake is the movie that is credited with landing Daniel Craig the role of Bond. I really do like him as an actor and as Bond. As I watched Layer Cake I couldn't believe that it was a movie that had completely slipped under my radar. Besides Craig, it has a stella line up of very good U.K actors who are tailor made for a crime movie. Michael Gambon though looked a bit ridiculous with a fake tan but was seriously chilling as an educated, but totally ruthless, unscrupulous crime boss. The whole cast is very good and some play characters outside of the norm. Ben Whishaw is usually a bit wishy washy in character choice but here he is very good as a minor unstable crim. 

 The overall plot isn't that original as Taratino done something very similar in Jacky Brown. It is basically one of playing two sides off against one another to save one's own skin. Craig plays a likeable, clever, and low profile cocaine dealer. After his last big cocaine deal he wants to retire but has his plans dashed by a big crime boss who involves him in a private feud with another crime boss. Even worse, he is pulled into a big ecstasy deal he wants no part of because the seller is a loose canon and unreliable. Craig's character narrates all to the viewer. It adds a nice dimension to the movie as we can't help but root for him as his world implodes.

 The whole thing goes quickly pear shaped, and he is frustrated at his inability to control his own fortunes. In many respects the viewer feels sympathtic even though he is a crim. He has been very careful and low profile in his dealings, when suddenly it all implodes and he is at the mercy of others. It isn't a situation of his own making or choosing but one of being involved in the underworld. His situation sees him having to break his own rules to save himself. He starts carrying a gun ( even though he hates them ) because his name is in-correctly connected to the theft of the ecstasy from a bunch of Serbian war criminals.

What a mess, and he is staggered by how it all unravelled so quickly. The movie is very subtle in how Craig's character shifts from being the victim ( a victim within the criminal world? ), to the victimiser. At no time do we hear him plot his revenge. We see his initial attempts to get things off his back and they look like they are bungled. His attempt to kill the Serbian hitman fails and he looks stupid. But quietly he works on things, and even though they look like bungles they are carefully thought out and stage managed to appear so. As all the parts and intrigue fit together he deals with each problem by playing side against side.

 When he starts this the movie really cracks open and becomes a really good crime drama. I really liked the playing off of sides as at no time is it apparent Craig is the manipulator even though the viewer suspects. The best scene for me was when he delivers the ecstasy to Gambon who sits him down and explains the facts of the criminal world to him. He tells him to let it all go because he has the smarts to become really big one day. It just isn't his time, and getting screwed over is part of the game when you are a little man. The title of the movie, Layer Cake, is explained in terms of the layers within the criminal world. Craig understands, even though he is seriously pissed off by being a pawn,  and leaves. We then see the esctasy being hijacked by the dealer he intially tried to sell it too. Right to the end the play offs continued and Craig's character tidied up all the ends beautifully.

 Layer Cake was a far better movie than I was expecting. I like the Britishness of it even though there is a bit to much 'gun' in it, ( probably to make it more appealing to American viewers ). The plot of play offs within a crime movie isn't exactly original, but here it is less obvious as the viewer is lead astray in believing things are bungled when they are in fact cleverly staged parts of a plan. There are also some interesting things to note in this movie. Daniel Craig's character is never named and just called X in the credits. Also the title of the movie isn't displayed until about ten minutes in. They are unusual and add an air of thoughtfulness and quality to the movie by adding something a bit different. The soundtrack is really cool too, and just adds that certain 'something'.

This is a fine British crime drama and well worth watching. The performances are all strong, as is the plot as it slowly reveals itself. My initial feeling of passing it up and going to bed was thankfully wrong and I really enjoyed this movie from start to end. It is in the traditon of Lock, Stock, and Barrel, and to a lesser extent RocknRolla, and is a really good look into the criminal under world and all its inherent dangers and dis-honesty. The proverb of no honour among theives comes to the fore as does crime doesn't pay. Just watch the last scene because X is not allowed to retire no matter how good his intentions. He is a criminal and get a criminals end.

 A good solid crime movie and well worth your time. Recommended.

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  1. Ooo, I remember this. I never got round to seeing it. Might give it a watch now.

  2. I don't think you'll be disappointed. The cast alone makes it an above the average flick.

  3. This is a great movie, I'm glad that you liked it! DANIEL CRAIG is so badass.

  4. Yep it is certainly a good movie and Craig is at his very best.

  5. perfect movie for Daniel Craig's crazy fans .. Ive watched it tons of times he the sexiest man on the planet <3 I just bought layer cake daniel craig jacket and feeling like Daniel :p