Layer Cake (2004)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Gangster Film  |   Release Date - May 13, 2005 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 105 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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The recipe for Matthew Vaughn's Layer Cake is simple: start with a few generous spoonfuls of Guy Ritchie, add a pinch of Martin Scorsese, and sprinkle in a few plot points from Carlito's Way. The result is a pretty yummy confection, even if it doesn't revolutionize the dessert world. Having produced each of Ritchie's films, Vaughn has taken with him the intricate plotting, the unintelligible accents, and the surplus of characters, most of whom have cookie-cutter mobster nicknames. He's left behind Ritchie's fondness for absurdist comedy, as Layer Cake proceeds in a mostly straightforward manner, at least in terms of its set pieces. The narrative is another matter -- J.J. Connolly's script gives birth to a new subplot about every five pages, and it becomes nearly impossible to sort out who is with whom, and whether it's a double- or triple-cross they're perpetrating. This disorganization leaves certain characters out in the cold, such as Sienna Miller's promising femme fatale, who has no function. As with a Ritchie film, it may be wisest to treat Layer Cake largely as eye candy. Vaughn's camera glides through the action like a guided tour of Britain's drug underworld, narrated by the nameless protagonist (Daniel Craig) and seen through a crisp, nearly colorized filter. It's mostly free from the frenetic trickery of Ritchie's films, save for one virtuoso sequence in which Vaughn films a vicious beating from the perspective of the victim, the camera somersaulting with each blow, and Duran Duran's "Ordinary World" sputtering in and out of clarity on the soundtrack. Vaughn can marry insubstantial pop songs with hip iconography like the most successful of his predecessors. What Vaughn can't claim is a totally distinctive vision -- the kind that might prompt young filmmakers to imitate him, rather than them.