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LAYER CAKE

SYNOPSIS:
An unnamed drug-dealer (Daniel Craig) has always had his priorities straight: he wants to quit while he's ahead. But before he can enjoy the fortune he has made from selling ecstasy and cocaine, he has to oblige his boss Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) for two last requests. The junkie-daughter of crime lord Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) has gone missing and Price wants the dealer to find her. Also, he needs to get a sale for one million ecstasy tablets, which loud-mouth crook The Duke (Jamie Foreman) has got his hands on. The dealer is on the case, but with a Serbian hit-man and a bunch of unpredictable tough guys, things are never are straightforward as expected.

Review by Louise Keller:
Daniel Craig plays a nameless drug dealer, who sees himself as a businessman with a plan. And his plan is to retire and enjoy the spoils of his profession. But there are a couple of favours he has to do first for his crime boss associate Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham). When Guy Ritchie turned down this British gangster movie, producer Matthew Vaughn stepped in to direct, and has made an energetic film that leads us deeper and deeper through the layers of the underworld. With its excellent performances and metaphors for British society, Layer Cake is hard-hitting and absorbing, although the plot is often confusing with its overload of characters. J.J. Connolly's screenplay could well afford to leave out some of his novel's characters, allowing the double crosses, plot twists and final outcome to have maximum impact.

Craig's anti-hero (referred to ridiculously as XXXX in the credits) is a man who thinks he knows where he is going. By choosing his associates carefully and making sure he keeps a low profile, he believes he can control his destiny. There is no reason why this character should have no name, so it seems rather pretentious. However, Craig is both smooth and convincing, keeping his face almost expressionless, until that moment when the face that looks back at him in the mirror is etched with despair, after the killing he never thought he would commit. 'If you have to kill someone, never ever tell a living soul,' Colm Meaney's Gene had told him. The violence is contained, although there are a few disturbing scenes, most notably in the coffee shop, when Morty (George Harris) loses control when faced with the man responsible for putting him in gaol.

The favours Price asks seem simple enough - to find the addict-daughter of underworld king-pin Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon in a splendid role), and to be the middle man in sorting out a massive shipment of ecstasy tablets. 'Don't bother me with the details,' Price says in the exclusive private dining room, 'just tell me when it's done.' But things don't go to plan and our 'XXXX' gets his hands dirty. Sienna Miller has a small role as the alluring Tammy, with whom he has an instant attraction, and her recent high profile since Alfie will ensure maximum billing.

Things get a little confused with the Serbian hit-man comes onto the scene, and it is hard to keep track of who is who. The resolution is also murky and no clear motive is given for the final scenes.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

LAYER CAKE (MA)
(UK, 2004)

CAST: Daniel Craig, Tom Hardy, Jamie Foreman, Sally Hawkins, Burn Gorman, George Harris, Tamer Hassan, Colm Meaney, Marcel Iures, Sienna Miller

PRODUCER: Adam Bohling, David Reid, Matthew Vaughn

DIRECTOR: Matthew Vaughn

SCRIPT: J.J. Connolly

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben V. Davis

EDITOR: Jon Harris

MUSIC: Lisa Gerard, Ilan Eskeri

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kave Quinn

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 28, 2005

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Pictures Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: December 14, 2005







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