I've been meaning to post about Layer Cake (2004), in which Daniel Craig plays a drug dealer whose early retirement plans are seriously thwarted. (The title on the DVD is "L4yer Cake." Why the 4? I dunno. I know that there's a way to write in which numbers are substituted for some letters, but why it's used in this particular title, I have no idea, because the movie has nothing to do with computers or text messaging or anything like that. And now that I've yet again proved myself hopelessly unhip, please ask a teenager what it means -- or explain it yourself, but pretend you had to ask a teenager -- and get back to me.)
We never learn Craig's character's name; he is called "XXXX" in the credits. It's clear he's not your garden-variety thug. He considers himself purely a businessman -- dislikes violence, doesn't make enemies or snort the merchandise -- and having stashed away a boatload of money, now just wants out to live a comfortable life. Unfortunately the guy he works for wants one more job done, and wouldn't ya know it turns out not to be quite so simple. XXXX is supposed to buy and sell a bunch of stolen ecstacy, but the Serbs it was stolen from are both ruthless and really pissed off, and the jackass who stole it is in way over his head, a complete loose cannon. XXXX is also charged with finding the missing, drug addicted daughter of his boss's boss. He hates both assignments. These are the kinds of messy jobs he's specifically avoided, keeping his eye on a higher prize. But, whatcha gonna do.
Of course, complications upon complications ensue, and things spiral out of control. "Welcome to the layer cake," the boss's boss says in a pivotal scene. Whatever that means. Yeah, layers, social strata, I get that. But it still seemed a forced metaphor, and it distracted me. Mmmmm, caaaake.
Hm. That probably says more about me than about the movie.
In any event Craig is worth watching, natch -- you can see why Barbara Broccoli liked him for Bond -- and all in all, Layer Cake is pretty good, for a crime flick. The director, Matthew Vaughn, is the guy who produced the London underworld movies Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, directed by Guy Ritchie (aka Mr. Madonna, and isn't that marriage remarkably stable?). I personally preferred Ritchie's films overall (even though the accents are so thick we Yanks can't understand a third of what's said in 'em), because they have a kind of wackiness to them that Layer Cake seems deliberately to avoid.