Starring: Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, George Harris
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Running Time: 105 mins
Layer Cake is a British film about a successful drug criminal who, on the verge of getting out of the business and going straight, receives a difficult task from his boss.
With slick directing, strong performances, and a good balance between gritty crime and exciting storytelling, Layer Cake is a very entertaining watch all round. Although it may not quite prove as snappy and hilarious as it often promises, it’s a consistently engrossing film that will keep you guessing right the way through, the perfect recipe for two hours of intrigue.
Firstly, what I liked best about this film was that it managed to successfully find the balance between being a crime comedy and a crime thriller, something you don’t see pulled off too often. Throughout, Matthew Vaughn’s slick and energetic directing is part of the recipe for the film’s comedic and entertainment factor, a trademark of the director that we have seen come on in leaps and bounds ever since.
The lead trio of Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney and George Harris, all of whom are actors that excel in more serious productions, play along very well with Vaughn’s more light-hearted elements, and that all helps to make Layer Cake a far more entertaining watch than you may expect at first, given it’s not just a run-of-the-mill crime thriller.
However, unlike many of Guy Ritchie’s films, which are far more comedic, Layer Cake has a good level of grit to it that helps to keep its feet on the floor, and keep you intrigued in its story throughout. While it’s fortunately nothing over the top, director Vaughn regularly places moments of striking grit or occasionally heavy violence to remind our main man, as well as you, the viewer, that this is a dangerous world and a dangerous game being played. As a result, the stakes remain high throughout, and the thrills are there in a way that some more light-hearted movies don’t quite manage.
Given that the film was released only a few years after the immense success of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, it’s good to see that it doesn’t try to completely copy their formula, and goes it alone with a good balance between dark and light that really works to make Layer Cake an entertaining and intriguing film that stands up well on its own.
With that said, there are clearly moments throughout the film where things are maybe meant to be a little funnier or snappier than they perhaps come off, in an attempt to replicate the formula of those films by Guy Ritchie. In truth, I feel that this film could have used some more laugh-out-loud comedy, as it occasionally does settle down a little too much in its crime drama guise, with the lighter side losing out in a way that isn’t intended.
Overall, I enjoyed Layer Cake. On the one hand, it’s a crime thriller with good grit and drama throughout, the sort that will keep you engrossed in the story at hand. Yet on the other, it brings some strong light-hearted elements to the table, and in tandem with some effective and impressively flexible performances, proves a very entertaining watch all the same, which is why I’m giving it a 7.8.