starring Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, George Harris, Tom hardy, Jamie Foreman, Kenneth Cranham, Marcel Iures, Tamer Hassan and Michael Gabon
screenplay by J.J. Connolly
directed by Mathew Vaughn
Everyone knows now that Daniel Craig is the new James Bond in Casino Royale. But before I watch this new James Bond film I am trying to familiarize myself with Daniel Craig. So I have recently watched two other movies that feature him - Sylvia (co-staring Gwyneth Paltrow, about the marriage between American poet Sylvia Plath and British poet Ted Hughes), and Munich (starring Eric Bana, about the covert Israeli response to the terrorist murders of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, West Germany). Daniel Craig looks like his face was lifted off of Mt.Rushmore. Not what I would call handsome, or even sexy. Maybe “ugly sexy,” the phrase that was coined in Kissing Jessica Stein by Heather Juergensen’s character, Helen Cooper.
Layer Cake is a British action gangster movie. It’s pretty good, too. I don’t understand the title. Craig’s unnamed character is a cocaine dealer - a businessman, not a gangster. But he gets caught up in things that run out of control, and then the killing starts. The story is intricate in a typically British way. Making sense of the story as it unfolds in front of you is like trying to follow the weave of relationships in a Thomas Hardy tragedy of errors novel. The dealer’s supplier steals from the wrong guy - a Serbian war criminal making quick money on the drug market in Amsterdam. The Serb obsessively pursues his stolen goods and doesn’t care who is in possession of them at the moment, nor how they came by them. He will kill everyone just to get back what was taken from him. It’s a matter of honor, you see. Meanwhile, the goods are sold from one dealer to another, shuttled around, and hidden. The package is a hot potato no one can unload, and when they realize that previous possessors of the package keep disappearing, they can’t figure out why before getting cut down themselves. And, in the meantime, the U.K. hoods are double-dealing behind each other’s backs. You see what I mean about the story’sa complex weave. But it is fast, and the action is good. All-in-all, it’s a good movie.
Watch Colm Meaney. I’ve known him for years, since I first saw him on the American TV series, Star Trek, the Next Generation. I really like him. And, Michael Gambon is good, as usual.
I have watched a few British crime movies and one thing that always amuses me is the British underworld argot that nicknames everybody. It’s like British hoods are stuck in a parody of old American cops-and-robbers movies. Or, maybe it is British directors who think that the English criminal class is like that. Here’s a sample fromLayer Cake:
The soundtrack is good. Making Plans for Nigel (XTC); Gimme Shelter (Rolling Stones); Ordinary World (Duran Duran); She Sells Sanctuary (The Cult); and Joe Cocker’s cover of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. You get a feeling for the absolute Englishness of the story and the characters when you see the whole picture. But it is a good picture that you will enjoy.