Review by Gordon Justesen
Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, Kenneth Cranham, George Harris, Jamie Forman, Sienna
Miller, Michael Gambon
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Sony Home Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: August 23, 2005
a smart boy, but you keep really bad company.”
Here is a bravura
piece that has restored my faith in the genre. Matthew Vaughn, the producer of
Guy Ritchie’s superb British gangster flicks, Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two
Smoking Barrels, has delivered the most satisfying and original crime
thriller in quite some time with Layer
Cake. It may just be Britain’s equal to Scorsese’s GoodFellas and Casino.
Rather than present
the traditional rise and fall scenario that accompanies a lot of gangster
movies, Layer Cake takes its criminal
characters and places them in a hair-raising and extremely convoluted plot that
unfolds with sharp twists and turns. The “layer” in the title has
significant meaning, because the film seems to have many layers as minutes go
by. If you have any hint as to where this film is going, you deserve to be
branded a genius.
The film pays
homage to Scorsese’s films by giving us key voice over narration by the lead
character, a middleman drug supplier with no name (Daniel Craig, in a superb
performance), or as the credits label him, XXXX. He’s a man that doesn’t
consider himself a gangster, but simply a businessman who gives the people what
they want, and believes that keeping a low profile is a much better way of
handling business rather than being a hotheaded gangster wannabe. Talk about a
most original character.
Mr. X operates
under the watchful eye of longtime associate, Gene (Colm Meaney), who’s kind
enough but will beat you to a pulp to get some information. He also has his back
guarded by Morty (George Harris) and Terry (Tamer Hansen). His business rules
consist of knowing your customers, paying your associates/expenses and never,
under any circumstances, get too greedy.
But Mr. X’s
business ethics and plans of retiring early while he’s ahead are about to be
sorely challenged. He is summoned by his boss, Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham), to
sort out a deal involving ecstasy pills that went bad, really bad. In addition,
he is asked to locate the missing daughter of high level boss Eddie Temple
At first, X accepts
the two tasks with simple reluctance, but as facts are discovered in both the
horrid ecstasy deal and the daughter’s disappearance, he learns of details
which have him scratching his head with bewilderment. After a surprise meeting
with Jimmy’s boss, X learns of an unthinkable betrayal which will cause the
once calm drug supplier to go to extreme lengths in order to protect his
Added to this, the
incident involving the ecstasy pills turns out to have bigger catch than one in
the drug business could ever hope for. It turns out the pills, hijacked by
members linked to Mr. X, belonged to a Serbian group that just happens to be
wanted for high level crimes against humanities. The Serbs, in turn, have
dispatched a hit man named “Dragan” after them. And Dragan has a talent for
lopping heads off and freezing them in a cooler.
And the surprises
only grow from there. It may look and sound as though I have revealed way too
much plot, but truth be told, I’ve only revealed about half the events in the
movie. There is truly a lot going on here, so much to the point that if you look
away for a second, you may be somewhat lost when your eyes and focus return to
I actually had to
watch the movie twice before I completely got the gist of every bit of plot
action. That’s how extraordinarily convoluted. But even if that wasn’t the
case, the film’s audaciousness made me want to revisit it instantly.
expecting something along the lines of the Guy Ritchie films, you’ll like what
you get but it won’t be anything like you expected. This film is much more
brutal in its violence and less keen on the razor sharp comedy that made Snatch
the movie it was. It’s clear that Vaughn didn’t want a retread of the two
movies he previously produced.
Vaughn, who adapted
the screenplay from the novel by J.J. Connolly, has made a much more darker
British crime thriller with slight bits of humor that don’t overshadow the
brutality. And just like Scorsese, he boasts an incredible soundtrack to go
along. You won’t ever be able to hear Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World”
again in the same way after you hear it in this movie.
Cake is an immensely entertaining and wonderfully bizarre crime thriller
that does nothing short of re-inventing the gangster movie. Credit
writer/director Vaughn for doing something new to a genre that needed it, and to
a marvelous ensemble cast who are each at the dirty, dirty best.
Sony has whipped up
a marvelous and outstanding looking disc. The anamorphic picture is stunning in
delivering effective visual power to this wide-lens film. Image quality is
strong all the way through, with endless clarity and all around detail, with
knockout colors, in addition. The underworld never looked more engaging! You
will definitely want to choose this over the Full Screen disc, as you will no
doubt lose a great deal of effect with the latter choice.
The 5.1 mix
delivers strongly in all the areas a great DVD presentation should excel in.
Every element, from dialogue delivery to occasional gunfire, to a strong sound
performance on the part of music, is delivered to the channels in superb,
dynamic form. A fine presentation, courtesy of Sony.
“layers”, if you will, for this Special Edition release. Included is a
commentary track with Matthew Vaughn and novelist J.J. Connolly, as well as 14
Deleted Scenes with optional commentary, 2 Alternate Endings with optional
commentary. There’s also 2 well made featurettes; “The Making of Layer
Cake” and “A Q&A with Matthew Vaughn and Daniel Craig”, as well as
several bonus previews.