Cake Walk

Layer Cake: adapted by J.J. Connolly from his novel; directed by Matthew Vaughn; starring Daniel Craig (unnamed protagonist), Tom Hardy (Clarkie), George Harris (Morty), Colm Meaney (Gene), Kenneth Cranham (Jimmy), Michael Gambon (Eddie Temple), Sienna Miller (Tammy), and Nathalie Lunghi (Charlie) (2004): Director Vaughn produced some of Guy Richie’s films about the British underworld, and it shows in his directorial debut both in subject matter and style. This is a flashy, frothy picture that loves camera tricks and twisty plot developments.

Underneath the flash is a fairly simple story about a London cocaine producer (Craig) who gets sucked a lot further into his boss’s schemes than he wanted. The McGuffin — the boss asks Craig’s unnamed protagonist to search for the missing daughter of a business colleague — is dropped less than halfway through the film. Layer Cake has other things to do, most of them revolving around a huge shipment of ecstasy stolen from the Russian mob. Well, an Eastern European mob, in any case.

Crosses, double-crosses, and a little of the old ultraviolence ensue. Daniel Craig dresses up like a ninja in an assassination scene that pretty much destroys all suspension of disbelief. There is much screaming and beating in of heads and bullet holes in foreheads. Colm Meaney and Tom Hardy do what they can with their supporting roles, while Michael Gambon is the soul of high-level corruption.

Nonetheless, this is a fun movie if one has a high tolerance for graphic violence and under-developed characters. If it riffs unsuccessfully on Get Carter from time to time — well, so it goes. Lightly recommended.

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