I’m still under the influence of This is Spinal Tap and what an influence that is. After seeing this movie, the words of Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) come naturally to me:
“The review for [your album] “Shark Sandwich” was merely a two word review which simply read “Shit Sandwich”.
I could really sum up this review as “Shit Cake” but that would be taking away from the movie. It’s an ambitions, stylish, gangster B-movie with a lot of character actors who know their drill and deliver the goods. The problem lies with the protagonist and the angle.
Layer Cake starts with a good premise: a guy, who deals with cocaine, is planning to retire. His partners in crime all have names, he is supposed to stay nameless. The end credits feature him as XXXX, that’s one notch nastier than XXX apparently. The part is played by Daniel Craig who barely makes the passing grade as the new James Bond. He’s neither very tough, nor smart but he does get beaten up a lot. In that way, he’s more like Indiana Jones.
We know he’s not going to retire. These guys never do. The beginning of the end is when his “boss” sends him on an errand. Or rather, two errands. One is to locate a missing girl. The other to find a buyer for a million ecstasy pills. The plot follows the second errand, the first being nothing but smoke and mirrors to make the game more complicated than it actually is. This complexity is something that this movie shares with Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Richie is a master of plot twists and character actors doing the necessary characterization.
Director Matthew Vaughn is also a producer of Lock, so you’d think some of that Ritchie stuff will rub on. Some of the visual style does come off as a bit Ritchiesque. The movie, however, takes itself too seriously and ambitiously seeks to do a character study. The problem with that is you need to care about the protagonist. I didn’t. Daniel’s character felt distant and cold, I never cared, if he was going to succeed with this double-crossing game or not.
If it’s any consolation, Ritchie’s third crime movie, Revolver, fell short as well. When you want to be in the same league as Scarface and Goodfellas, you know you’ll be falling a long way, if you miss the mark. Shit Cake. Watch out.