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Overall Rating

Awesome: 32.14%
Worth A Look35.71%
Average: 7.14%
Pretty Bad: 25%
Total Crap: 0%

6 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Layer Cake
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by Lucas Stensland

"It’s just sort of there, playing on the screen -- mildly engaging."
2 stars

Layer Cake isn’t a bad movie. It isn’t in any way offensive, annoying or dumb. It’s just sort of there, playing on the screen -- mildly engaging. Its director, Matthew Vaughn, produced Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. This film is an improvement over those atrocious gangster flicks, which appealed to kids growing too old for Nickelodeon and slackers who mistake ADD tendencies for edginess, or, even more off base, innovation.

Even though Layer Cake often pairs useless song choices with obvious visuals, perhaps pandering to Ritchie’s fan base, it has a slight sternness to it that saves it from being unbearable. Even when the film’s story ignites, its tone remains blasé, indifferent to its own excitement. And if it seems that my slight praise of this film amounts to it being more boring than obnoxious, that isn’t quite the case. There’s something slightly refreshing about a genre film that doesn’t push any envelopes or shoot for the stars but instead just comfortably exists within the genre.

Daniel Craig plays an unnamed ultra-safe drug trafficker (his credit reads “XXXX”) who prepares cocaine for British crime boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Graham) and of course has plans to quit the business. XXXX’s retirement plan is detoured when Jimmy states that in order to leave the business XXXX must perform two tasks: He must first track down the smack addicted daughter of competing crime boss Eddie Temple, and then coordinate a drug sale with an unmanageable drug dealer called The Duke.

Also thrown into the mix is an overzealous wannabe gangster named Sidney whose girlfriend has a thing for XXXX. In one scene she gyrates on the dance floor while XXXX attentively and longingly watches, recalling a similar sequence in DePalma’s Carlito’s Way, a film with which Layer Cake shares quite a few similarities. And while XXXX pays novice Sidney no heed, viewers always know better.

A direct threat comes in the form of Eddie Temple, who is pleasantly phoned in by the great Michael Gambon. XXXX gets kidnapped by some of Eddie’s goons and is not only redirected in his search for the daughter but is given a recording of Jimmy snitching to the authorities. Worse still, XXXX learns that Jimmy has no intention of setting him free. With his world crashing in on him, XXXX starts to lose control of his life.

It’s a cute device to keep XXXX’s name a mystery, but unfortunately it only further underscores the blankness of the character. He’s no Eastwood-esque Man Without a Name, nor is it used as a comic motif like in the Kill Bill movies. It’s just a slightly clever idea that serves little purpose. Craig plays it tight, terse and clean. But he comes across as less Carlito and more uptight and self-involved. He’s not planning on “getting out” to save his life or soul or for some larger reason; he’s merely exiting the mob because he’s reached the right tax bracket. Not exactly riveting, although kind of realistic and identifiable, Craig plays the role without enough urgency.

Ultimately we’re left with an anti-hero who is slow to reveal himself and an actor who, like the audience, doesn’t seem connected to the character. I like Craig and recently championed him in Enduring Love and The Mother, but here he seems a little lost and miscast. Craig is an actor with a lot of sensitivity and intellect, but he’s a little short on sly charisma. He’s too William Hurt and not enough Clive Owen.

Layer Cake is an almost all-male gangster parade of unoriginal characters doing very typical things. But keep in mind that parades are fun. Well, sort of.

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originally posted: 01/18/05 17:42:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/19/17 Anne Selby at times boring, karma - Craig shot dead 2 stars
4/13/10 brian Oh look, another gangster movie. *Yawn* 3 stars
7/13/06 Phil M. Aficionado A messy cake without much taste, except bitter one and sour, not too fulfilling 3 stars
5/10/06 chienne Again, just went to see it for Marcel Iures, but god, isn't Craig sensational? 5 stars
2/13/06 Reklc Funny, intriguing, interesting and very british, what more do you need?! 5 stars
2/07/06 tatum Standard crime thriller done with much aplomb 4 stars
1/01/06 Tanya very good loved the ending 4 stars
12/28/05 Steve Newman What an excellent film - made my Christmas viewing (Dec 05!) 5 stars
12/16/05 Gary Budds This film was creative and interesting.Stensland most definitely has poor taste in movies 5 stars
9/30/05 Mac excellent! a must see 5 stars
9/18/05 Dominic Very entertaining film 5 stars
8/22/05 John Bale This cake failed to rise. Starts well but bogs down in over complicated plot 3 stars
8/17/05 Agent Sands FUCKING FANTASTIC. A great severance for a primarily shitty movie year. 5 stars
8/13/05 John Bale Starts with promise but over complex plot and pedestrian direction becomes boring 3 stars
7/10/05 cpbjr execellent 5 stars
7/07/05 Elizabeth Blackey Knew nothing about this movie. What a great surprize - loved it. 5 stars
6/29/05 Jack Sommersby Craig is semi-magnetic, but the film is familiar, slow, and abrasive. 2 stars
6/08/05 Agent Sands I could watch it as many times as I've watched Lock, Stock & Snatch. It's just my type!!! 5 stars
5/16/05 Chris Stephens SEe this movie 5 stars
5/06/05 Marc Basque Terrifically plotted and wonderfully acted 5 stars
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  13-May-2005 (R)
  DVD: 23-Aug-2005



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