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Photo by Daniel Smith

Oy, guv’nor, in case you ’adn’t ’eard, ’ere’s some’n new on at
the flicks, directed by the bloke who made Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
and Snatch. Not Guy Ritchie — ’e didn’t ’ave fuck all to do wit this
one — but this other bloke called Matthew Vaughn, who was Ritchie’s producer,
and now ’e’s decided to give directing a bash. It’s about this grafter — we
don’t never find out ’is name — who works for this bigtime boss called Jimmy
Price. This no-name bloke is the dog’s bollocks at what ’e does — don’t make
no row, don’t even carry a piece — and ’e knows nuffin’ good lasts forever,
so ’e’s lookin’ to retire ’fore somebody comes ’round and beats seven shades
of shit out of ’im, or worse. But — and stop me if you’ve ’eard this one before,
guv — Mr. No-Name’s got one more assignment from ol’ Jimmy before ’e’s through
and, wouldn’t ya know, the whole plan goes tits-up.

The movie is called Layer Cake, and, like just about every
British crime picture of the last decade, it’s stacked with gentlemen gangsters
in Saville Row suits, blockheaded yobs with names like Kinky, Tiptoes and the
Duke, and a disposable caper scenario (here involving a missing girl and a truckload
of high-potency Ecstasy tablets) equal parts rowdy laddishness and bone-crushing
bloodshed. Beyond that, there’s little to say, except to note that the cult
of Ritchie has become about as tedious as the cult of Tarantino. Both have led
to an equal number of badly imitative films, though the influence of Ritchie
is the more puzzling in that his own movies aren’t that original (or that good)
to begin with. In Layer Cake, the manifold plot machinations are so tedious,
their ultimate revelations so pat, they’re hardly worth the effort it takes
to keep up with them. And with one major exception, the characters fail to stand
out from the sleek, impersonal backgrounds that suggest Vaughn (just hired to
direct the next X-Men sequel) may have thought he was filming a feature-length
Lexus commercial. The exception is the film’s anonymous protagonist, embodied
by Daniel Craig with flinty authority, but also with a subterranean vulnerability
like tiny cracks forming on a frozen lake. He’s the only thing in Layer Cake
that amounts to more than a collection of macho poses — and if he can’t quite
save the movie, he does make it a good deal better than a poke in the eye.

LAYER CAKE | Directed by MATTHEW VAUGHN | Written by J.J.
CONNOLLY | ADAM BOHLING, DAVID REID and VAUGHN | Released by Sony Pictures Classics
| At selected theaters

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