Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Layer Cake

Year: 2004
Dir: Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay: J J Connolly

Stars: DANIEL CRAIG, Tom Hardy, Colm Meaney, George Harris, Tamer Hassan, Jason Flemyng, Jimmy Price, Sienna Miller, Nathalie Lunghi.

Layer Cake…what a tasty treat it turned out to be. Any film, which opens with a piece of 1980s flavoured gothic punk rock like The Cult’s ‘She Sells Sanctuary’, just has to be good.

In his directorial debut Mathew Vaughn gives us an intelligent, rather ironic tale of an educated criminal known as ‘XXXX’, played superbly dry and demure by Danny Craig, not your typical lead. He’s a man about to be wrought with anxiety as his plan to get out of the business proves to be rather tricky indeed.

Being a more up-market, classier affair than Lock, Stock or Snatch. Layer Cake serves up a believable story of London’s ‘gangland’, including its stereotyped criminals. Perhaps JJ Connolly, who penned the book and screenplay, spent a little too much time on the set of 2001s ‘Mean Machine’; another purely British affair filmed in Oxford Prison.

It’s true to say, this slice of new-wave British cinema does not disappoint. Vaughn pieces the story together with some very ingenious transitions, an overlapping scene technique which is stylistic to the extreme but never disengages the viewer. Even the soundtrack, including Duran Duran and XTC, interspersed with Kylie Minogue and Starsailor, bestows a subtle edge of class to the whole proceedings.

The only downside, and there is a downside, we’re talking ‘British cinema’ here, is the strange pace of the story. Half way through it becomes very talky, and with so many characters in the fore, it begins to lose momentum.

With so much to take in its not surprising that the dialogue gets lost too. There are a couple of scenes where you cannot make out what anyone is saying. Perhaps it’s the mix of accents. Although Colm Meaney’s portrayal of ‘Gene’ a rather nasty gangster, minus the usual overwrought ‘oirish’ accent is a relief.

Complimenting the near perfect cast, Michael Gambon as Eddie Temple, the meanest gangster of them all, explains the layer cake to XXXX, delivering the films moral, of which there are quite a few.

Finally, to clarify the synopsis I’ve read on several sites, and where ‘Imdb’ has it slightly wrong. There is a love interest, albeit minute, and it lounges in the background. Well, that’s until in a sort of homage to all gangster films ever, including the Godfather himself, and proving that no man can have his cake and eat it, everything that ‘XXXX’ achieves, suddenly unravels straight back where it began.

A very watchable two hours and definitely worth a second bite.

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