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 appropriate) ending.

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.



  • Two alternate endings
  • Many deleted scenes
  • Behind-the-scenes featurettes
  • Director and writer commentary
  • Q&A with the director and star Daniel Craig


Sienna Miller shows her breasts from the side, her bum in skimpy underwear, and one nipple under a mostly transparent bra.

"Kinky Kerry" does a few frames of full frontal nudity.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: three stars. James Berardinelli 3/4, Roger Ebert 3.5/4, BBC 3/5.

The People Vote ...

  • It took in about $7 million in the UK and $2 million in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C or a C+, a slick genre film which seems like a retread (or to be kinder, a continuation of the tradition) of Guy Ritchie's gangster films.

Return to the Movie House home page