I like good gangster movies, but mediocre ones can be very tedious – and the really good ones are rather thin on the ground. So I approached the film of J.J. Connolly’s book Layer Cake with some trepidation, drawn as much by the fact that it starred the excellent Daniel Craig as by optimism that I’d enjoy the story.
But enjoy it I did – very much. In fact, Layer Cake now lines up alongside Get Carter, The Long Good Friday and The Italian Job as one of my absolute favourite British gangster films. Craig is predictably cool and classy in the lead role, but he is assisted by a first rate cast which includes, as senior Bad Guys, those fine actors Kenneth Cranham and Michael Gambon, both of whom perform with gusto.
The plot is complex – multi-layered like some cakes, in fact. Briefly, Craig is planning to retire young to enjoy his ill-gotten gains, but a hapless henchman called Duke lands him in the mire by stealing a vast quantity of drugs from some seriously menacing Serbian villains, while Craig finds it impossible to keep both Cranham and Gambon off his back. There are some very violent moments, which are not for the faint-hearted – Cranford this is not! - but also some very funny lines and scenes.
Craig moves smoothly from one messy situation to another, pausing only (though this is entirely understandable, I think) to pick up Sienna Miller, who dumps Duke’s unstable nephew, with consequences that in the end prove very unfortunate. I liked the pace and twists of the story-line, and as long as you don’t mind violence and bad language, this is a film that can definitely be recommended.