Moviehole at SXSW : Layer Cake


Tim Basham previews the new Daniel Craig film

When you think of gangster movies you think of American movies. From Edgar G. Robinson and James Cagney to Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, movie bad boys and goodfellas have filled the screens for almost a hundred years. (Some say D.W. Griffith’s “The Musketeers of Pig Alley” from 1912 was the first.)

So, it’s a unique and pleasant surprise when you come across a non-American gangster movie that surpasses all expectations. “Layer Cake” does just that.

Never has brutal violence appeared so clean and proper as in “Layer Cake”. Director and London native Matthew Vaughn gave the film a beautiful symmetry—from color coordinated fields of flowers to immaculate British streets with well-dressed men and seductive women. It’s all a perfect backdrop for J. J. Connolly’s script that was adapted from his own 2004 novel. The dialogue is quick, clever and, at times, delightfully unpredictable.

Daniel Craig plays a dapper, no-name professional drug dealer (known as XXXX in the credits) who is on the verge of taking the fortune he has made and leaving the world of crime behind him. But before he can escape he must perform a couple of favors for local crime boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham). First, find the missing daughter of powerful, upper-class Englishman Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon). And second, negotiate the transaction of a large shipment of the drug ecstasy.

Of course, everything that could go wrong does. “The Duke” (played by Jamie Foreman) actually stole the ecstasy from a powerful eastern European mob boss before he began to work the deal with XXXX. Before long, Craig’s character is blamed for the theft, and most everything else.

American audiences are familiar with Craig as the hot-headed Connor Rooney in “Road To Perdition”, and from “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” As XXXX, he may work with gangsters, but his inexperience with guns and killing is soon evident as he creatively tries to untangle the web he’s fallen into.

“Layer” becomes a metaphor for the various levels of class which XXXX must deal with. Veteran actor Colm Meaney plays Gene, who’s a layer above XXXX, but just below Jimmy. The fight and make-up scene between Gene and XXXX is especially fun. The surrounding cast of nightclub characters, international smugglers and low-life junkies are all mixed into “Layer Cake”. And the result is downright delicious.


Previous SXSW Reports
Moviehole at SXSW : Gore, Wilsons, Grappell
Moviehole at SXSW : Who is Grace Lee?
Moviehole at SXSW : Deadroom delivers
Moviehole at SXSW : Warm-Up Lap
Moviehole at SXSW : Pre-Festival Report