Matthew Vaughn. Before his first movie hit theaters, Fox had already signed him to direct "X-Men 3." Obviously the executives saw something they liked, and that something was "Layer Cake," a fun little crime thriller that neither achieves cult status like the movies of his former "boss" Guy Ritchie nor warrants repeat viewing, but still ensures a good time.
Daniel Craig, one man rumored to be the next James Bond (I'd put up a fight if that were the case), stars as our hero, a drug dealer who likes to play it by the rules to make big money. When a giant score comes his way, though, he is willing to bend the rules a bit, but his flexibility turns into his downfall as he gets stuck in the middle of a prickling web of deceit, murder and revenge.
Vaughn, who was the producer of Guy Ritchie's popular crime comedies such as "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch," delivers much less comedy than his more successful counterpart, but his visual flare shows promise for the future. That being said, I doubt he is ready for as big a project as "X-Men 3," which is probably why he ended up leaving said project. Still, the directing, editing and overall visual feel of the movie is great, even on a small screen attached to the back of an airplane seat.
"Layer Cake" is for those who like a variety of different storylines going on at once. The plot is somewhat complex as various groups of villains work simultaneously to get what they want and stop the protagonist's progress. There are a few decent twists, but more importantly you just have to pay attention or you'll be lost. I stopped paying attention for a minute or two (was daydreaming about girls), and it took me fifteen minutes to get back into the action.
Craig delivers a terrific performance in the lead, creating compassion for a man whose business is drugs. He's sharp, witty but at the same time human; he makes some pretty stupid mistakes at times. Also expect a great performance from my man Colm Meaney.
There's nothing exceptional about "Layer Cake," but it is an achievement for a first-time director. If this movie is any indication, Vaughn has a long and successful career ahead of him.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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