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Layer Cake

Layer Cake
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Studio: Sony Pictures Classics

reviewed by Donald Melanson

August 29, 2005 | You can probably count on one hand the number of reviews of Layer Cake that don't either compare it to Guy Ritchie's Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, or talk about its star Daniel Craig as a strong possibility to succeed Pierce Brosnan as James Bond. In case you're keeping track, this review is not one of them.

The comparison to the two Ritchie films is a fair one, since Layer Cake's director, Matthew Vaughn, was the producer for both of those movies (though most people seem to forget he also produced Ritchie's Madonna-starring Swept Away). With Layer Cake, Vaughn obviously borrows from Ritchie's slick visual style, although he drops a lot of the humour, replacing it with a much cooler demeanor.

Craig plays a man with no name who is lured away from an early retirement as a drug dealer by his boss, Jimmy Price, to find the daughter of Jimmy's boss, Eddie Temple. There's also the matter of one million ecstasy pills he has to deal with.

In a sense, however, it's two MacGuffins for the price of one, as it's not the goal that's important but the getting there. And in the case of Layer Cake, the getting there is an intense and intricate affair, not to mention a lot of fun.

I don't think it's giving away too much to say that at one point or another, most of the major characters in Layer Cake are either double-crossed or think they've been double-crossed. Which of course means that each of those characters also gets to enact a bit of revenge in one form or another (it is a gangster film after all).

The supporting cast is especially strong, with Michael Gambon as the aforementioned top-of-the-cake Eddie Temple and George Harris and Colm Meany (in a role a far cry from his familiar Star Trek persona) as two of Craig's associates.

Craig himself gives a very impressive and understated performance, and it's easy to see why there's been so much speculation about the Bond role. But given his performance here, and his role in Steven Spielberg's highly anticipated (and likely Oscar shoe-in) Munich, he certainly doesn't need it for a career boost.

Also, as is almost expected with this type of movie, Layer Cake makes great use of music, although it's reliance on popular hits from bands like The Cult and Duran Duran reminded me more of Grand Theft Auto than Tarantino.

Sony Pictures' DVD comes loaded with about as much as you could expect from a single-disc release, including a commentary track with Vaughn and screenwriter J.J. Connolly, a short promotional featurette, a half-hour interview with Vaughn and Daniel Craig, 16 deleted scenes (with optional director's commentary), storyboard comparisons, a poster gallery, and a couple of trailers (although, oddly, not one for Layer Cake itself). All that plus a great widescreen transfer and a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track.

Donald Melanson is the editor-in-chief of Mindjack and a freelance writer for hire. In addition to Mindjack, his work has appeared in The Globe & Mail, Engadget, and MovieMaker Magazine.

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