Layer Cake (2004)
So what we have here is your classic British gangster movie. Its clearly been influenced by the Guy Ritchie movies Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, but I have to say it’s much darker and a far more serious affair.
Planning to retire and begin a new life, Mr. XXXX, as he’s known, and played brilliantly by a pre Bond Daniel Craig, is a successful West End drug dealer. He’s been asked for one last favour, to negotiate the sale of one million hits of Ecstasy. Unfortunately for Mr. XXXX, the pills were stolen from a Serbian drug lord who’ll cut off his head if he sells them. And with a London crime boss (Michael Gambon) promising to retire him permanently if he doesn’t, Mr. X may be rightfully concerned about his future. Nothing worth losing his head over. Throw into the mix a missing girl who his own boss has asked him to track down and a cast of typical London Underworld characters, played by the likes of Jamie Foreman, who you may remember as Eastend bully Derek Branning in a certain London based soap and a fresh faced Tom Hardy, what you have is a real nightmare of a situation which XXXX has to somehow navigate and come through in one piece.
I’ve probably made the actual plot sound much more complicated than it is. For all it’s many twists and turns it’s actually quite easy to follow, but what you won’t see is where it’s ultimately going to end up. There are a couple of nasty shocks I didn’t see coming including the ending.
The violence isn’t especially graphic but a couple of the scenes are quite brutal. As far as that goes the sequence in the café stands out as a bit of a shocker, and definitely falls into the “didn’t see that one coming” category.
All that said the movie moves along at a cracking pace. As you’d expect from the likes of Craig, Hardy and Gambon the performances are excellent. The gang bosses are unpleasant and generally nasty, and Daniel Craig looks suave, sophisticated and totally ready to play 007, which he did the following year. Also his level of cool in this movie put me in mind of a young Steve Mcqueen, as he appeared in The Thomas Crown Affair and Peckinpah’s The Getaway.
To sum up, if your looking for a really good gangster movie to watch on a Saturday night with a pizza and a beer, check this out. You won’t regret it.