Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by J.J. Connolly
Based on his novel
Layer Cake is a tasty treat for those who hunger for great films. It’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking and a stunning directorial debut by Matthew Vaughn, who previously worked as a producer on Guy Ritchie’s films. Not only does Vaughn revisit the slick, polished, cool British underworld that he helped Ritchie create, but he surpasses those previous works with a great cast led by Daniel Craig in a star-making performance, some Scorsesesque directing touches and a wonderful script that J.J. Connolly adapted from his novel.
Our narrator is a man with no name, listed in the credits as XXXX. He is a very successful drug dealer in the markets of cocaine and ecstasy. His business endeavors have made him very wealthy and he has avoided trouble with the law. At the start of the film, he decides now is the time to leave this lifestyle before his luck inevitably runs out.
Of course, XXXX can’t just retire and collect his gold watch. He has to check in with his superiors. Crime boss Jimmy Price has made a lot of money from XXXX over the years, so Jimmy is willing to let him leave on the condition that he completes two favors: find the missing, drug addict daughter of a powerful criminal, Eddie Temple, and negotiate the sale of a shipment of ecstasy with The Duke, an untrustworthy loose cannon. It’s a safe bet these will be no easy tasks, especially with all the competing interests involved.
The strength of the film is the way the plot unfolds, so I won’t mention anymore except to state that for a refreshing change of pace the film ties up all the plot lines in a believable, satisfying manner. The script is very smart as it continually raises the stakes. The viewer has to pay attention to all the wheeling and dealings. The lack of a theme keeps Layer Cake from achieving true cinema greatness, but the film is definitely a classic of the genre. I am certain it will be in my year-end top-10 list.