“LAYER CAKE” is a tasty mix of stylistic and character driven plot with exceptional writing by JJ Connolly and a welcome directorial debut from producer Matthew Vaughn (“Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Snatch”). “Layer Cake” is an unusual crime thriller that feeds us the dynamic, edgy, and cataclysmic storyline that we hunger for. Daniel Craig’s unnamed character emerges as the key player and grips us immediately with his narrative about life as a smooth-operating cocaine dealer in the London underworld who plans to retire in one week’s time with an amassed fortune and a clean record. He has a set of rules to live by, “work with a small team, keep a low profile, only deal with people who are recommended, never be too greedy, know and respect your enemy, avoid wannabe gangsters, and avoid, like the plague, the end user.” Of course it wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting if everything had gone according to his plan and thus, chaos ensues.
Before he can get out of the game his boss, Jimmy (Kenneth Cranham) gives him the daunting tasks of finding the missing crack addicted daughter of Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) and selling a massive amount of previously stolen ecstasy pills. The story takes us from crack houses to clubhouses and demands our attention as we shuffle through the other players whose names read like a whose who of racketeering. Clarkie (Tom Hardy), Duke (Jamie Foreman), Dragan (Dragan Micanovic), Tiptoes (Steve John Shepherd), Nobby (George Harris), Morty (Brinley Green), Freddie (Ivan Kaye), Crazy Larry (Ben Brasier), and Gene (Colm Meaney) all lend support to the dizzying multiplicity of the plot with Sienna Miller making a notable appearance as Tammy, a toothsome distraction for our hero.
A combination of effective use of camera angles and movement make Layer Cake very visually stimulating. Somehow the brutality and dark subject matter are easier to ingest because the film sounds and looks great. Original scores by Ilan Eshkeri and Lisa Gerrard (“Gladiator”) enhance the tone of the film along with tracks from The Rolling Stones, The Cult, and Duran Duran. Layer Cake exhibits a worthwhile concentration of cinematic proficiency with a raw and refreshing approach that seems to be what has become Matthew Vaughn’s signature style of filmmaking. Welcome to the Layer Cake!