A successful cocaine dealer gets two tough assignments from his boss on the eve of his planned early retirement.A successful cocaine dealer gets two tough assignments from his boss on the eve of his planned early retirement.A successful cocaine dealer gets two tough assignments from his boss on the eve of his planned early retirement.
Daniel Craig plays a drug dealer (whose character is not actually named and who is referred to simply as "XXXX" in the closing credits) in London. He regards himself as a businessman rather than a criminal. He professes to a hatred of guns and violence and he goes about his lucrative dealings in a low-key manner and in a way designed to keep himself under the radar and out of trouble. His aim is to make some money and to retire to Spain or somewhere similar to enjoy the fruits of his ill-gotten gains. However, his plans come awry when, on the threshold of retirement, he is asked by a powerful crime boss with whom he has done a number of deals in the past (Jimmy Price, played by Kenneth Cranham) to find the missing daughter of a friend and associate of his. That friend and associate turns out to be Eddie Temple (brilliantly portrayed by Michael Gambon), who is even more powerful, devious and ruthless than Price. It transpires that Price's motives in asking for his friend's daughter to be located are not as altruistic as they seem. Price also asks Craig's character to find a buyer for a huge consignment of drugs that have, in fact, been stolen by another dealer (The Duke, played by Jamie Foreman) from a ruthless Serbian drugs gang whose leader Dragan has a penchant for beheading anyone who gets in his way. Craig's character finds it difficult to say no to the powerful Price and so he embarks on a course that raises his profile and makes him enemies.
"Layer Cake" is a riveting film. Although its plot earns few marks for originality, it is a well- written one (by J J Connolly, who based the screenplay on his own novel of the same name) and is clearly and accessibly portrayed. There are several clever twists that are plausible and unexpected. I have seen so many films of this sort in which the plot is either ludicrous or does not hang together properly. That is most definitely not the case here. The direction is very good and Craig himself is excellent in the starring role. The supporting cast, which contains a number of well-known British character actors as well as stars such as Gambon, are all very good too. The soundtrack, which features British rock music by the likes of The Cult and Duran Duran and which makes good use at the end of the film of Joe Cocker's version of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", perfectly complements what we see on the screen. There are some minor visual continuity errors. One such is that the injuries on the face of Craig's character after he receives a going over from his fellow gangsters for supposed disloyalty are not compatible with each other in succeeding scenes. I also think that the film's attempts at humour are somewhat misplaced. Here are two examples. Temple is portrayed as liking opera and in one scene is keen to complete a conversation so that he can get away to go to a performance of Berlioz's "The Damnation of Faust". A northern hit man, when travelling in a taxi with Craig's character, is more keen on practising his oral French in readiness for an imminent test than on a more normal conversation. These two scenes are presumably intended to lighten things up. But they seem merely to be bolted on for the sake of it and add nothing to the development of either character. These are minor weaknesses though.
"Layer Cake" is an entertaining film that is well worth seeing. 8/10.
- Jun 16, 2012