You might think that a complex crime thriller starring Daniel Craig would be a sure hit. Unfortunately, while “Layer Cake” is not a complete miss, it never managed to score a solid hit with me.
Craig plays an unnamed cocaine dealer in London (literally listed as XXXX in the credits, the director is so coy). He is ultra-smooth and ultra-cautious, never using his product and never working with people who are too showy or unreliable. Managing his money intelligently, he has saved up enough to retire in style, but on the eve of that secretly-planned retirement, his boss gives him a couple of assignments that break all of his rules. He is to make a deal for a huge load of Ecstasy with a flashy turd of a gangster named Duke (Jamie Foreman). He is also supposed to find his boss’s friend’s daughter, who has disappeared into the drug underworld. His next couple of days are a whirlwind of violence, double-crosses, and revelations, as XXXX’s world gets turned upside down.
“Layer Cake” wants to be “Snatch,” but it fails on every level. The film is populated by some interesting characters, but the script just doesn’t develop them enough or give them enough to do. I never really found myself rooting that hard for the “good guys” or hating the bad guys all that much. After all, these guys are all drug dealers and thugs, and the film never managed to get me beyond that. For a smart guy, XXXX does a lot of stupid things, including taking these two assignments in the first place. I find it frustrating when a plot requires a character repeatedly to do things that are out of character. They also manufacture a love interest (Sienna Miller, the most generic hottie in film), which feels completely arbitrary and gratuitous. The final nail in the coffin for a film like this: it’s a bit slow and boring.
If you keep your expectations low, “Layer Cake” is mildly entertaining. You could watch it on cable in a hotel room some time. I like crime movies as much as the next guy, but this one left me feeling robbed.
2 stars out of 5