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Layer Cake

By Bret McCabe | Posted 6/1/2005

The laddie crime saga gets a makeover in Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake, a slowly constricting noose around the neck of an all-business, midlevel London drug seller so clever we never know his name—even the credits call him XXXX (Daniel Craig). Seamlessly spun together out of other stylistic statements—Scorsese’s roving camera, Gangster No. 1’s flashback waves rippling into the present, the colorfully clipped slang-speak of every Brit gangster yarn since The Long Good Friday, and the suit- and track-suit-clad dodgy geezers that the ’90s added—Layer Cake finds the poker-face XXXX sinking in a quagmire of double crosses and setups when his boss, Jimmy (Kenneth Cranham), sends him sniffing after the well-heeled, crack-pipe-hitting daughter of Jimmy’s old mate, politico Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon), while brokering the sale of 1 million tabs of Ecstasy that flunkie dealer Duke (Jamie Foreman) pinched off the wrong sinister Slav in Amsterdam. XXXX quickly finds himself having to scheme his way out of a Serbian hit man’s cross hairs and the grips of Temple’s henchmen. Vaughn wisely ditches the slapshtick of Snatch and Tarantino, et al., aiming for a more sober experience that finds its ideal rudder in Craig’s unwavering steeliness, but you’ve seen everything here before—and with better zing.

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