I’m not sure why, but the Brits seem obsessed with fast-paced, super edited crime thrillers where there are no real good guys, just a bunch of bad guys trying to one-up each other.
That’s pretty much the concept behind Layer Cake, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining. In fact, it’s actually a pretty good movie.
Daniel Craig stars as a middle man in the drug trade in England. Along with his crew, they successfully distribute and sell their product for their boss, Jimmy. But Craig’s character (whose name is never revealed) is planning to retire. He’s made a lot of money, and is looking to get out of the business. But Jimmy delivers one last task: find Charlotte Ryder, an old friend’s daughter.
While he struggles to locate the girl, his crew is also tasked with examining the quality of two million pounds of ecstasy, which turns out to be stolen from a gang of neo-Nazi killers. Twists and murders come at every turn, keeping Craig’s character on the run for his life.
I liked this movie. It was smart, slick and rarely stopped moving. Craig does a great job as the man with no name. In fact, everyone in the cast turns in a crisp performance, including Colm Meaney, one of my favorite actors from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He’s one of the few people to grace a Trek series that has managed to retain a varied career.
Meaney is not the only Trek vet in Layer Cake. Although I shiver to even mention it, Tom Hardy, who plays Clarkie, a member of Craig’s crew, played the evil Picard clone, Shinzon, in Star Trek: Nemesis.
There’s a dark, cynical tone to Layer Cake that is pervasive in most crime thrillers that come from England. But it still works, and a large part of that is due to the cast. George Harris, whose been in quite a few things I’ve caught lately, would probably be most recognized as the boat captain in Raiders of the Lost Ark (he was also recently in The Interpreter). His character is the most complex, and was a stand out performer for me.
I say he was the most complex because while other characters like Craig’s man with no name and Meaney have more screen time, both are pretty much as you see them. Although their pasts are largely mysterious, you know who they are from the very beginning. With Harris’ Monty, you’re not too sure what he’s about. Plus, there’s one scene in particular where he beats the snot out of a homeless man, where you begin to understand that this is the only character who has depth.
As for the rest, they are who they appear. There isn’t any complexity to them, and quite honestly, there doesn’t need to be. Layer Cake itself is complex enough, with nothing but twists and turns, right up to the very end.