Thursday, June 02, 2005

Layer Cake

Layer Cake (Director: Matthew Vaughn)

This is Vaughn's directing debut (he was recently attached to direct X-Men 3 but has just pulled out). From the producers of Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels, which includes Vaughn himself. Layer Cake is based on the book by J.J. Connolly, who adapted the screenplay.

This Brit gangster flick takes the double-crossing, interweaving subplots of a movie like Lock, Stock or Snatch and strips it down into a slick thriller. Whereas those prior movies were essentially comedies, this movie is all Michael Mann-like in its methods, creating more of a suspenseful mood. Don't get me wrong, the movie can be quite funny at times--but finding foibles in the plot or characters is not its focus.

This is a "last-score" type of movie, with the never-named, credited as XXXX (Daniel Craig) looking for one last job that will pay handsomely so he can retire. He has gotten himself into a position along with his friends Morty (George Harris) and Gene (Colm Meaney), among others, to get that score from the wealthy Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham). His job is to locate a missing friend's daughter (Nathalie Lunghi) and to buy a million pills of extacy from a group of thugs who have just recently acquired them. Of course, things get highly complicated--the group of thugs have stolen from another high-level crime lord who has sent a hitman named Dragan (appropriately enough, Dragan Micanovic plays the role) to kill anyone linked to the theft, which now includes XXXX and his crew because they want to buy the stash. Further complicating matters is a Jimmy's rival Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon, who is always excellent), who throws another wrench into the plot. The smokin', illegally hot Sienna Miller is in this, too, as the love interest. Jude Law is lucky.

If you've seen Lock, Stock or Snatch you know that the plots will all come together in the end and you'll have no idea how it will turn up, which is, of course, welcome. Matthew Vaughn is certainly a talented director. His camera moves and angles are fresh, and he's got Jon Harris doing some incredible editing. Daniel Craig, this is basically his star-making performance. He's been seen before, in Road to Perdition and Tomb Raider, even this year's The Jacket, but here is where he carries a movie, another in a long line of future Brit leading men cut in the mold like Clive Owen.

This movie is very cool. It can be a little murky now and then, and a couple of subplots seem to drift out of the picture, but it shouldn't detract from your enjoyment.


At 6/02/2005 12:18:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

I'm so glad this is coming out this weekend; I have been dying to see it. And, alas, if the rumors are true, Brett Ratner will be taking over for X-Men 3; god, I hope that's not true. All this guy has done of any merit in my opinion is "Rush Hour," and that's by no means a classic. A lot of people did like "Red Dragon," though, but I was not one of them.

At 6/02/2005 03:19:00 PM, Blogger MaraJade said...

This movie sounds so familiar, but I don�t know if I�m imagining it or not. Either way it sounds good. I like Colm Meaney. I think he�s under-appreciated and I love the types of movies like Lockstock and Snatch.

Who is this guy who is directing X3? Does he suck? I�m really hoping this movie will be as good as the last two, being a huge X Men fan and also a fan of Patrick Stewart. He is signed on to be the professor again right? One can only hope.

At 6/02/2005 04:55:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Ratner did the RUSH HOUR movies, MONEY TALKS, THE FAMILY MAN, RED DRAGON, and last year's AFTER THE SUNSET. He hasn't been hired, yet, for X-MEN 3 now that Vaughn is gone, but it looks like they may get him since RUSH HOUR 3 is on hold.

His name has become synonymous with "trash," or at the very least, mismanaged attempts. In other words, he's no Bryan Singer, who did the other 2 X-MEN movies.

At 6/03/2005 12:33:00 AM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Ratner is an interesting specimen. This is yet another case where Hollywood pays someone a lot of money because some of their films have made money even though no one saw those films because of said director. "Rush Hour" was one of those weird flukes where Jackie Chan was still an interesting enigma to people, and Chris Tucker looked to be the next Eddie Murphy; "Rush Hour 2" did good business based on the success of the first one, and it was released in a pretty piss poor summer with very little competition. Anyone could have directed "Red Dragon," and it would have been a huge hit. And "Family Man" and "After the Sunset" were bombs for the most part.

"X-Men 3" will make money no matter who helms it, so why not get an interesting director like say David Fincher or David Koepp, and hell, you know Tarantino would clear some room if they gave it to him. But no. I guess there thinking was that guy that did "Rush Hour" and "Red Dragon" seems to have a good track record. Let's use him. I wouldn't be surprised if they had to look his name up before they even gave him a call.

At 6/03/2005 10:09:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Here's my thoughts on Ratner:

I really liked Red Dragon. But did I like it more for the story and script than for the direction? Probably.

Now maybe the guy can do a good job. I would say there's no proof or evidence that he's guaranteed to mess it up (like there would be if he were Michael Bay). But there's equally no evidence he'll do a great job.

Again, let's look at Layer Cake....good movie. Vaughn had produced good movies too. But none of that is proof he'd do a great job. Hiring a director (short of hiring Spielberg) is always a bit of a crapshoot.

I just hope the script and story are there, because's tougher for a director to mess up.

ps-Sam Raimi should just make all the comic book movies, because he has demonstrated a devotion to story coupled with visual flair. As good as Singer's first two Xmen were, I don't think they had the resonance of the Spiderman films. Maybe they weren't supposed to, though, I don't know.

pss-Batman Begins looks amazing...perhaps Nolan will join the group of directors who turned comic franchises around with solid films. Hope so.

At 6/03/2005 12:26:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

There's some early word on "Batman Begins" at aint-it-cool-news, and they are all saying its incredible. We've been blindsided by this website before, but I hope in this case it's the real deal. I love me some Nolan.

And, KW, you're right about the "X-Men" films not being up to par with "Spiderman." I would even go farther with that and say that "Hulk" was better (a movie I didn't really get the first time I saw it, but have grown to kind of love watching it on cable). "Superman II" will always be my favorite comic book movie, but that may be more of a nostalgic thing. Chris and I also always talk about "Unbreakable" being the best superhero movie ever, but people seem to put that movie in a different genre.

As far as "Red Dragon" goes, I by no means thought it was terrible. But when you've seen the far superior "Manhunter," which I know a lot of people don't like as much, "Red Dragon" was just kind of pointless to me. It was like watching the shot for shot remake of "Psycho." Which gave me an interesting idea; what would a Michael Mann superhero movie be like? I would be more than interested to find out.

At 6/03/2005 01:12:00 PM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Man, Unbreakable rules! It's one of my top five favorite just hit me perfectly.

We should break it down into two catagories, comic book films and superhero films.

Comic book films are those based on established and pre-existing comic books. Spiderman films are the best. Hulk is up there (I, too, like this movie...most didn't but I just really dug the heck out of it). Batman Begins might be there too...looks like it has a shot.

Superhero movies are any movies about superheroes (including comic book characters). I'd personally say that The Incredibles is the best...followed closely by Unbreakable.

That's my two cents.

But, man, Jonathan...with your liking Unbreakable and Hulk...I'm really starting to dig your taste in movies. Here's hoping we both enojoy Nolan's effort.


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