Layer Cake (15)
Time Out saysDo you know what a Ramora fish is?’ Michael Gambon’s ageing crimelord loftily inquires of Daniel Craig’s nameless, younger and very successful cocaine dealer in this smart crime thriller. ‘Yes,’ Craig replies calmly, immediately puncturing his powerful elder’s posturing claptrap. The old criminal order changeth in this stylish directorial debut from the man with the dubious honour of producing Guy Ritchie’s films.
Vaughn survives the transition from producer to director well, but first and foremost this is Craig’s film. As a sharp-suited, thoroughly modern criminal, he dances around an ever-evolving cast of gangster types, trying but failing to quit the messy drugs business into which he slips more and more at every tick of the clock. JJ Connolly’s novel (and script) gives Vaughn a credible host of characters to play with, and the director refrains from caricature. Instead, he paints a distinct, muted vision of the London underworld, indulging in the rising towers and grey skies of Canary Wharf to stress the onset of a new crime generation, fuelled by drugs and Eastern European muscle. Sure, Jamie Foreman and Dexter Fletcher are familiar Brit-gangster flick faces, but Craig, Gambon, Kenneth Cranham and Ben Whishaw add some welcome gravitas to an otherwise tired genre.
Peel away the suits, the wit, the drugs, the chases and the twists, and you’re not left with much else . But what else do you need from a slick crime thriller with overtones of ‘The Long Good Friday’? At least Vaughn has buried the cartoon ghosts of ‘Lock, Stock…’ and ‘Snatch’ (and the myriad pretenders to their throne), and in the process proved himself a more sensitive, intelligent director than Ritchie ever was.