Producer Matthew Vaughn's directing debut is a briskly paced, stylish and bracingly bitter adaptation of J.J. Connolly's novel about a sleek London cocaine dealer who doesn't understand his business as well as he thinks. The titular layer cake is a metaphor, alluding both to England's class system and to the stratification of the underworld, from gutter punks to polished crime lords. The nameless protagonist (Daniel Craig) — call him X — has made a pile of money in drugs, established a successful realty business as a front and laundered his ill-gotten gains through the same accountant used by his boss, prosperous, aging cockney hard-case Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham). X stays away from his product, never underestimates the police or chisels his associates and never, ever works with the kind of loudmouthed poseurs who inevitably screw up and bring down everyone in the immediate vicinity. X hates guns, but knows that to keep the peace you have to be ready for war and, above all, recognizes that you have to quit while you're ahead. He's about to do just that when Price drags him into a pair of gigs that reek of trouble: tracking down the junkie daughter of his old pal Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) — who, unlike Price, has managed to polish off some of his rough edges and rub elbows with the upper crust — and moving an enormous shipment of ecstasy from Amsterdam. The ecstasy belongs to the Duke (Jamie Foreman), exactly the kind of volatile gangster wannabe X makes it his business to avoid and, more to the point, the ecstasy doesn't really belong to the Duke at all. He and his bumbling crew stole it from Serbian war-criminal Slavo (Marcel Iures), who's already dispatched a ferocious hit man to bring back both the goods and the head of the thief who took them. Suddenly X is getting the screws put to him from all sides, and no amount of spinning the situation reveals a way out. Though style ultimately outweighs substance, the film is formidably entertaining. Vaughn, Guy Ritchie's producer on LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998), SNATCH (2000) and SWEPT AWAY (2002) — matches Connolly's drunk-on-words panache with a rapid-fire succession of arresting images, effortlessly gliding from woozy cool to high-voltage brutality. The result is so intoxicating, it hardly matters that you've heard it all before.
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- Released: 2005
- Rating: R
- Review: Producer Matthew Vaughn's directing debut is a briskly paced, stylish and bracingly bitter adaptation of J.J. Connolly's novel about a sleek London cocaine dealer who doesn't understand his business as well as he thinks. The titular layer cake is a metapho… (more)