- Reviewed by: Avril Carruthers
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Current Rating 8.28/10 | 25 Votes
Produced by Matthew Vaughn, Adam Bohling, David Reid
Cast: Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy, Jamie Foreman, Sally Hawkins, George Harris, Colm Meaney, Kenneth Cranham, Dexter Fletcher, Steve John Shepherd, Michael Gambon, Dragan Micanovic
A slick crime thriller about the top and bottom ends of drug dealing in the
Jimmy is a coarse, arrogant and violent petty tyrant who only barely suppresses his greed beneath a thin veneer of power. XXXX has no option but to accept the two jobs Jimmy requires of him, one of them – bringing back the runaway addict daughter of even bigger crime lord Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) – way out of his field. XXXX’s rules start coming unglued and he finds himself challenged by one situation after another from which the ‘rules’ were supposed to safeguard him.
Layer Cake is fast, violent and complex with colourful characters on every level of ‘the cake’. This metaphor rather simplistically refers to hierarchical rungs of the criminal pecking order, each receiving less shit than the one below. A sort of human meadow-cake, perhaps. Apart from the rarefied upper layers being desirably freer from manure, apparently the higher one goes, the more cool one must act; the cooler one acts, the higher one goes. Losing it by thumping the lights out of a traitor is not as cool as the presentation of a traitor’s severed head in a freezer box to a business partner in order to restore the hierarchy. Hysteria abruptly meets bullets.
Michael Gambon plays top cheese Eddie Temple with the sharpness and acidity of ripe Roquefort and balances nicely the ignorant vulgarity of Kenneth Cranham’s Jimmy as well as the increasingly rattled Daniel Craig as XXXX. Duke (Jamie Forman) represents the wildly out-of-control lowest rungs of the ladder and Sally Hawkins is his hair-trigger, red-leathered moll, Slasher. Milling around in the middle layers, George Harris as the timed-explosive Morty and Colm Meaney as the politic Gene, Jimmy’s lieutenant, match the serious weight of assassin Dragan (Dragan Micanovic). An incidental role by Sienna Miller as Tammy is little more than a cliché.
Ultimately, however, colourful characters and tense drama fail to make up for the lack of redemptive elements. Double-crosses, double blinds, plot reversals and sudden surprises are momentarily, mildly entertaining but when the central character is a cynical amoralist there’s only one possible ending. The self-conflicting irony of the ending both proves the value of XXXX’s rules, and shows how quickly the cake can crumble.
© Avril Carruthers 26th July 2005
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