Layer Cake (3/10)

by Tony Medley

When I see a convoluted, disjointed film like this, I wonder if they were working from an outline or were just winging it as they went along. Daniel Craig plays the unnamed protagonist, a drug dealer who considers himself a businessman. Craig works for Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham), a crime boss. But the really big guy is Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon) who is way up on the stratosphere of the hierarchy compared with Jimmy.

I saw this on the Sony lot in Culver City. Generally when I see a Sony Classics film in one of their screening rooms there is only a handful of people there. This time the room was filled, so much so that they brought in extra chairs. I thought that somebody must know something and that I was in for a treat. Alas, although the audience was appreciative, finding humor where the filmmakers intended, I wasn’t.

The story was just too confusing. Something about some pills that had been pilfered and Daniel and his gang were trying to dispose of them. This angers Jimmy and Eddie and there is a lot of violence and death. I have to admit that I couldn’t follow the story, even though I tried. Finally I gave up trying to figure out what was happening and just watched the brutality of the characters’ lives.

Because of the befuddling plot, the film drags on and on and on for 110 minutes, despite the violence, which should keep it moving.

As an inside look at the criminal world, this falls far short, mainly because of the plot and the inability of the filmmakers to decide whether or not they were making a serious film or a comedy. The Richard Harris vehicle, “My Kingdom” (2001), was a much more penetrating look inside the criminal world, but, then, that was based on Shakespeare’s “King Lear.”

Maybe the deficiencies in this film can be blamed on first time director Matthew Vaughn, if not writer J.J. Connolly, based on his book. Connolly’s first try at a screenplay was 400 pages, which translates into seven hours long! That might explain why this thing drags and drags and drags. Cutting a seven hour script down to a tight, 90-minute drama was clearly beyond the capabilities of Vaughn and Connolly.

Vaughn originally put the film together as a producer, thinking that he’d get Guy Ritchie, with whom he had previously worked, to direct. Ritchie passed, a good career move, so Vaughn became the director.

With a different script and a different director this might have worked because it’s a good idea. But, then, that would have been a completely different movie.

April 29, 2005