As its title suggests, Layer Cake is a crime thriller that cuts into several levels of its treacherous criminal underworld. The title is actually one character's definition of the drug-trade hierarchy, but it's also an apt metaphor for the separate layers of deception, death, and betrayal experienced by the film's unnamed protagonist, a cocaine traffic middle-man played with smooth appeal by Daniel Craig (whom you probably don't need reminding is the latest James Bond). Listed in the credits only as "XXXX," the character is trapped into doing a favour for his volatile boss, only to have tables turned by his boss's boss (Michael Gambon) in a twisting plot involving a stolen shipment of Ecstasy, a missing girl, duplicitous dealers, murderous Serbian gangsters, and a variety of lowlifes with their own deadly agendas. As adapted by J.J. Connolly (from his own novel) and directed by Matthew Vaughan (who earned his genre chops as producer of Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch), Layer Cake improves upon those earlier British gangland hits with assured pacing, intelligent plotting, and an admirable emphasis on plot-moving dialogue over routine action. Sure, it's violent (that's to be expected) and not always involving, but it's smarter than most thrillers, and Vaughan's directorial debut has a confident style that's flashy without being flamboyant. This could be the start of an impressive career. --Jeff Shannon
Snatch, the follow-up to the Guy Ritchie's breakthrough film--the high-energy, expletive-strewn cockney-gangster movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels --hardly breaks new ground being, well, another high-energy, expletive-strewn cockney-gangster movie. Okay, so there are some differences. This time around our low-rent hoodlums are battling over dodgy fights and stolen diamonds rather than dodgy card games and stolen drugs. There has been some minor reshuffling of the cast too with Sting and Dexter Fletcher making way for the more bankable Benicio Del Toro and Brad Pitt, the latter pretty much stealing the whole shebang as an incomprehensible Irish gypsy.
Moreover, no one can complain about the amount of extras featured on this DVD that includes 15 minutes of deleted scenes, a making-of documentary, trailer, storyboards, production notes and commentary from Ritchie himself. And, sure, people who really, really liked Lock, Stock--or have the memory of a goldfish--will really, really like this. The suspicion lingers, however, that if the director doesn't do something very different next time around then his career may prove to be considerably shorter than that of 'er indoors. --Clark Collis
Two features. In 'Layer Cake' a successful London-based cocaine dealer plans early retirement from the business. But he's handed an assignment which involves 'layers' through which he has to go in order to escape the modern underworld in which he is trapped. His final job threatens to bring him back into the 'cake mix'.