Jun 24, 2011

[Movies] Layer Cake (2004)

Layer Cake (2004)No matter how many movies, TV shows and other related content that my partner and I watch together each and every day, it's staggering to think that there's a whole host of titles that we still haven't seen and may never see. I guess that's why social recommendations become so important - through friends, online reviews and the like we discover new movies that we might want to watch. And so we invest time in finding out if the opinions of friends were correct or not and the whole viral process continues.

My partner started watching this movie without me and when he showed me the movie, it seemed like something I wanted to get into. And this was despite the fact that I had never heard about this particular movie before today. And that's often an interesting experience - finding something that your friend or partner has never known about and getting to be the person who will introduce them to the film. And you don't even need to like the movie in the end - it's just a matter of being the one to handle that experience that makes it all the better.

Of course it ended up that we had both never seen the movie before, and thus the whole thing unfolded quite interestingly enough. It's fun to discover something new together - it one of the many things that make having a geek partner so much fun.

Layer Cake is a 2004 criminal genre by then first-time director Matthew Vaughn. The title was also stylized as L4YER CAKƐ.

We start with our nameless protagonist (Daniel Craig) as he goes on to describe what exactly he does in life. In this case, he's involved in the buying, cutting and selling of cocaine in a manner that differs from how everyone else typically does it (ala Hollywood). So instead of gangs and thugs, he's really all about handling it strictly like a business despite it being outside of what is considered legal. And with his success over the years, he's very close to retiring.

His supplier, Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) asks him to track down Charlie (Nathalie Lunghi), who is the daughter of a colleague of Price's Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon). Charlie has escaped from rehab with her boyfriend. Also, he's also being asked to work with a petty gangster named The Duke (Jamie Foreman) to purchase about one million ecstasy tablets that he has managed to acquire and find a way to distribute them.

But all is not as it appears and the movie, like the titular layer cake, has many levels to it indeed. Thus the question becomes whether or not our protagonist will be able to navigate the convoluted plot that has been woven around him while still managing to achieve his goal of retirement.

Layer CakeImage by andy z via FlickrThe movie is a tad dated and features a number of familiar faces (at least in geek circles) of actors who have mostly gone on to bigger things (relatively speaking). This is a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig, a pre-Inception Tom Hardy, a post-DS9 Colm Meaney, a post-LXG Jason Flemyng, and a pre-Stardust Sienna Miller, to name a few. Oh yeah, and that is in fact the second Dumbledore playing the role of a snarky rival boss.

There's a lot of internet talk about how this movie led to Daniel Craig being selected as the new James Bond, and I can totally see that. The movie has him being totally in control, always suave and debonair and with a certain flair for the ladies. And I'm not even touching on that scene in the movie where he walks around with a gun equipped with a silencer - which is definitely James Bond-ish right there.

The movie's story is delightfully complex with each "layer" revealing more and more of the true plot at its core. Once all the pieces are in play, it's hard to imagine how even a person like our unnamed protagonist might be able to escape the web with his life. Still, the movie does go through a very interesting path of progression and the end result is quite rewarding (while quite surprising as well).

And as a directorial debut, Vaughn certainly demonstrated a certain flair for storytelling. The action remains pretty quick with few lull moments without resorting to a constant state of tension either. And the way that all the actors worked together (regardless of their "sides" in this whole affair) was quite impressive and really drove the story along.

And yes, Daniel Craig was pretty hot here, and we got a few gratuitous shirtless moments as well. Yay.

I guess the biggest challenge of the movie is the potential to lose the viewer in the complexities of the story. I found myself lost at certain points given the mix of the challenging plot and the various accents of the characters giving the movie an added level of difficulty. But it's definitely worth watching since the story is quite original.

Layer Cake is yet another example of Europe's weird liking for criminal dramas (as opposed to police / detective stories alone). It's a fun adventure but is also more than just another dumb action movie. It gets 4 brutal ways of killing a person out of a possible 5.

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