L4YER CAKE (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)
If you really miss the cool and funny gangster films
that Guy Ritchie used to make, and wish that Ritchie had kept making
them, well, this is the film for you. The Ritchie baton has been
passed effortlessly to director Matthew Vaughn, who is one of
Ritchie's best friends, was the best friend at Ritchie's wedding to
Madonna, and worked as a producer on Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two
Smoking Barrels. L4YER CAKE has all the strengths of those two
earlier films, and also has some of the same problems (too many
characters, too many storylines to follow). It also has a very cool
star, Daniel Craig, who can best be described as Steve McQueen with
a different accent. It also has a wild and unexpected (although
All in all, it is a nifty and entertaining hipper-than-thou film, although I just can't, for the life of me, see why some critics went ga-ga over it. If this had come before Ritchie's movies, I might have been more impressed, but the layer cake now seems to be a little stale. This time the item in dispute is a collection of a million Ecstasy pills, as opposed to some rare guns or some diamonds, but the general idea is about the same as in the Ritchie films. Everyone wants the prize, and our hero is caught in a situation where giving it or even selling to one group of gangsters will make him an assassination target for two or three other groups, so he has to pull off a spectacular flim-flam to satisfy all interested parties.
American audiences avoided this in its brief theatrical run in the States, and I would certainly not recommend that average Americans try to watch this in a movie theater, because it's virtually a foreign language film, and that makes the convoluted plot just about impossible to follow. There are just too many characters, too much going on, and too much jumping back and forth in time and place. On the other hand, DVD is an excellent medium to add some user-friendliness. I found two DVD features very helpful. First of all, I watched it in English with English subtitles, thus allowing me to understand all the heavy accents. Then I pulled one more ace from the DVD sleeve. After I watched the film, I went back and listened to the commentary over some particularly confusing scenes. Even after doing this, I was still confused on some details! For example, near the end of the film, one character apologizes to another, "sorry about Lucky." That was obviously supposed to be an emotional moment, but I was racking my brain trying to remember just who the hell Lucky was. Of course, I could have gone back and figured it out, but it just wasn't worth it.
I don't mean to imply that this is a poor film. In fact, it is quite a good one in many ways, and I enjoyed it, but I would have enjoyed it far more if it had departed from the Richie formula and had featured a tighter plot, involving fewer characters and fewer competing parties.
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