Layer Cake
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Matthew Vaughn
scr JJ Connolly
with Daniel Craig, Michael Gambon, Kenneth Cranham, Colm Meaney, Tom Hardy, Jamie Foreman, Steve John Shepherd, Dexter Fletcher, Sienna Miller, Sally Hawkins, Darren Healy, Jason Flemyng
release UK 1.Oct.04, US 13.May.05
04/UK 1h55

Now listen here: Craig and Meaney

craig gambon flemyng
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layer cake Guy Ritchie's producer Vaughn takes a stab at directing ... with yet another vicious-yet-witty British crime thriller. While it's visually striking, with superior acting, it's also cluttered with a bewildering collection of characters and plot threads.

Craig stars as an unnamed mid-level drug-dealing mobster who just wants to make enough money to retire early. But when he gets involved in a convoluted gang war between two bosses (Gambon and Cranham) and several factions of henchmen, he must navigate the multiple layers of the mob to make sure the right people end up with a missing shipment of E. But people are dying all around him, and it's going to get even more gruesome if he doesn't make everyone happy soon. If that's even possible.

It's a good story, but in adapting his own novel Connolly seems unwilling to part with even one minor character, jamming each vivid personality quirk into the script. On screen this is just too much! Too many people bouncing off each other in crowded, chaotic scenes. We can follow the main guys (at least those played by recognisable stars), but everyone else blurs into a cacophony around the edges. This may be quite realistic, but it makes it impossible to engage with anyone.

Vaughn has a strong visual sense--the direction and design are inventive and playful. The opening sequence is especially snappy, stylishly explaining the set-up until the plot kicks in and muddies it up beyond comprehension. But along the way there are wonderful moments--powerful scenes, hilarious mayhem, terrific lines of dialog. And the cast is excellent. Craig is a strong physical presence, as charismatic as always, and so good that we wish we could feel his emotional highs and lows. Of the superb, sprawling supporting cast, Gambon and Meaney get the best moments. So it's too bad that the story is such a bore! It's just a collection of plots and counterplots surrounded by brutal assaults and comical ineptness. While some sequences work brilliantly, others that obviously should mean something fall flat. In the end it just feels tedious. And pointless.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs, sex 8.Jul.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall