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2004 Roundup
2005 Roundup
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"Layer Cake"

Directed by Matthew Vaughn.
Written by J.J. Connolly.  Based on the novel by Connolly.
Starring Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, George Harris and Sienna Miller.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  5/30/05

Folks--

The man who produced "Lock, Stock, and 2 Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch" for Guy Ritchie has gone off and made a film of his own, and damn, this bad boy rocks.  "Layer Cake" is nothing--and by nothing, I really mean absolutely nothing--original; you'll swear you are seeing just another film about a wiseass lead, drugs, guns, double-crosses and femme fatales, but that feeling goes away after about a minute of the film's running time.

That's because "Layer Cake", based on the book by J.J. Connolly, seems to know that it's giving you nothing new so it just gives you a fresh perspective.  That, and it gives you Daniel Craig, who is quietly sitting in the background in throwaway roles in "Road to Perdition" and the first "Tomb Raider" but clearly has big-screen lead potential if "Layer Cake" is any indication.  Playing the much-hackneyed "one-last-job-and-I'm-retiring" career criminal--he is never named in the film--Craig just plain and simple is playing Steve McQueen throughout, trying to get out of the drug trade by doing one last job for his employers as well as tracking down a crackhead that's somehow important to his boss, Jimmy (Kenneth Cranham).  Naturally, something is fishy about this job, and naturally, it takes a mountain of shit going wrong before we finally figure out how Craig's character will solve the puzzle.  Along the way, he and his immediate associates, which include Morty (George Harris) and Gene (Colm Meaney), must try to sell some pills that came into their possession by way of a kingpin robbery, before said kingpin gets his hitman to smoke out the crew.

Lots going on, sure, but you don't get lost in that so much as you do in the morbid humor (much like Vaughn's other film credits, violent endings get a lot of laughs here, even though they feel much more serious than they did in "Snatch") and the flat-out cool of Craig, from his outfits to his delivery to his weathered look to his icy stare at the flaming hot Sienna Miller, playing a love interest that isn't much different from her role in "Alfie" a few months back.  That, and I was digging the soundtrack big-time.  Special effects and camera tricks are employed to strong effect; it's not the quantity, but the understated quality of the little things here and there that make the very slick production move right along.

Vaughn was tapped to direct the next "X-Men" film, so things seem to be looking up in the world for him in the near future.  But "Layer Cake" is a great start, from its routine-but-sauced-up storyline to its quirky cast of characters.  Save for its incessant profanity, this is a film you can recommend to almost anyone, especially those that like their movies cool.

Rating:  Opening Weekend

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09