Layer Cake (2004)

layercakepubeFilms like this make me happy I can afford to pay for them because “Layer Cake” is worth the money in the end. Taking off with a very Guy Ritchie sensibility, director Matthew Vaughn who has had involvement with one of my favorite films of the past years “Snatch” creates his own stylish monster of a mob movie with “Layer Cake”. What does the title refer to? Well, that’s basically something left for the climax, but this rampage of sex, booze, drugs, and violence make this one of the best mob movies I’ve seen since “Snatch”. Mr. X is a drug dealer/drug maker who wants to grab life by the balls.

He makes the drugs, sells them, and makes out easy. But his latest customer requires some actual action and wants him to retrieve his daughter who has lost it in the underworld of drugs. Now Mr. X must halt his grand plan of making money and getting off scot free and get his hands dirty. What I found so utterly genuine about Vaughn’s mafia thriller is the main character. He’s young, cocky, and so sure of himself he goes by the name of only Mr. X, and not even the audience knows his name. No sooner than being introduced to Mr. X do we basically veer in to a very elaborate tale of murder, drugs, and murder, with the occasional glimpse of Sienna Miller who is gorgeous as a distraction for Mr. X during his turmoils.

Vaughn is just a great director seamlessly creating his own visual style while borrowing some style from his former partner Guy Ritchie, witch the constant cuts back and forth between sub-plots that create an appropriate fresh aesthetic atmosphere that is always moving within the elaborate story. There is so much going on during the film, that it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with what’s going on, which keeps us on our toes as Mr. X must be. “Layer Cake” manages to give the audience an excellent story which peeks inside the ingenuous undertakings of the mob world. Much of the colloquialisms given during the conversations that the mobsters have are inside lingo that often alienates the audience yet involves us as if we’re being given a firsthand peek in to what is going on.

Deep down we know they’re discussing something truly pivotal. Daniel Craig poses a sort of McQueen quality giving an excellent performance that is mostly comprised of brooding, and his intensity as Mr. X really carries the film with the proper artistic distinction required for the leading role of this great film. Aside from Craig, we’re given an array of colorful characters that make up the mob world, including an excellent performance from George Harris who is intense and menacing as Mr. X’ assigned sidekick Morty. He stands by him and protects him but immediately turns on him at the suspicion of any wrong doings.

Not to mention there’s the often funny and very sexy Sienna Miller who plays the femme fatale Tammy. The one caveat of “Layer Cake” is the story which at times was so elaborate, and so busy, that I honestly had a hard time keeping up with it. Normally, I don’t mind films that demand my attention from beginning to end, but many times, “Layer Cake” was just too complicated to really decipher up until the climax which basically managed to resolve certain  questions that I posed during my viewing. Much of what happens happens and isn’t really explained until much later on which the audience may find stressing as I did, and I just couldn’t follow it many times.

There are many twists and turns during the plot courtesy of the original novelist Connolly who tugs the audience back and forth with an assortment of unexpected twists including the surprise ending which will drop you to the ground, but it’s Vaughn’s sick way of playing one final joke on the audience such as the films he engaged in with Ritchie. Though one main flaw of the film is the sometimes difficult story which took some extra attention, excellent acting saves the day as well as Vaughn’s direction. Guy Ritchie’s visual style rubs off on Vaughn who creates an excellent opus in the drug world and throws us for a loop with a heavyweight gangster picture worthy of being included in with the greats.