Layer Cake (2004)

Rating: C+

Dir: Matthew Vaughn
Star: Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, George Harris, Kenneth Cranham

The problem with this film is, it’s largely forgettable – given the reliance on supposedly shocking twists, this lack of impact, just a couple of days after watching them unfold, is a damning critique. The main interest is probably watching the next 007 (Craig) before he had the role, and his urbane, suave drug dealer is not a bad fit for Bond, perhaps closer to Fleming’s original than the movie icon he has become, especially around his cold, near-dead eyes. Much like The Bride in Kill Bill, Volume One, he’s given no name, an interesting conceit, though Vaughn doesn’t go to the showoff depths of bleeping it out: it’s just never used.

Reducing the film to its central element, he has to track down a million stolen ecstacy tablets, before the previous owner’s Serb assassin tracks him down. This has received glowing reviews elsewhere, but I can only presume those critics have not seen better examples of the British gangster flick, like Get Carter or The Long Kiss Goodnight. To Vaughn’s credit, he does take it seriously, and avoids aping Guy Ritchie, whose movies were more comedies in a gangster setting. There are also some moments that are either effective or sharp.

However, the further this goes on, the more it seems to unravel: in the end, the movie has so many balls in the air, that fumbling is inevitable. Never actually collapsing, the creaking from the story is still audible before the end, and you may wake up next morning, thinking “Hang on…” While better than anything Ritchie has done since meeting Madonna, that’s probably not saying much, given she’s done for his career what Yoko Ono did for the Beatles. A little less plot here would probably have been a big help.