2004′s ‘Layer Cake’ Signaled The Rise of Two Big Hollywood Stars
Director Matthew Vaughn’s coming out party also signaled the rise of one of the biggest acting names in Hollywood in Layer Cake star Daniel Craig. He’s now referred to as “Bond. James Bond,” however back in 2004, Craig was still a relative unknown having acted in a few roles of note, most recognizably in Sem Mendes’ Tom Hanks vehicle Road to Perdition. But Layer Cake gave Hollywood the authority to recognize the talent of Craig, take a chance and turn him into a star.
Craig (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) plays an unnamed, mid-level drug dealer in Cake. A smart man, with a plan to quit the drug game once he’s made a cool million. He is rightfully on the cusp of doing so when his boss asks a favor of him, which leads to all sorts of problems for the non-gangster. Craig is part of a deep plot to essentially set him up and kill him, but he is naturally underestimated while he learns the ways of gangsterism in the British lands.
Colorful characters abound in Vaughn’s film. Colm Meaney expertly plays Gene, the muscle of his boss. Morty is Craig’s muscle, who settles an old score in the process. The Duke is a loud, obnoxious wanna-be gangster who is in the drug game for the fame and recognition. Dexter Fletcher, known from Guy Ritchie’s (RockNRolla) career-defining Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, is a great con man and Sienna Miller has never been and likely never will be, more fetching than she is here. It’s a wonderful cast and an expert script.
‘Layer Cake’ Captures a Different Side of Gangster Life Than ‘Pulp Fiction’
Layer Cake only made $2.2 million at the U.S. box office and despite it’s $5-6 million dollar budget, only did about that amount of business in it’s native U.K. It’s surprising in retrospect, given the maturity of the film, the actors in it – note another young star in Tom Hardy, soon to be of The Dark Knight Rises “Bane” infamy – and the multiple comparisons that have been made to Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. The comparisons are understandable, if a little unfair, given the different tones of the film. Layer Cake is more slick and subtle, while Pulp Fiction more audacious and sprawling. Both films, of course, stand on their own – they do not need to be inextricably linked.
Despite a smallish budget, the production values make the film look gorgeous. Vaughn does yoeman’s work here and it’s understandable why he’s continued on to bigger projects (X-Men: First Class). The man who got his start as a producer on the aforementioned Richie film, is a talented auteur indeed. Layer Cake’s locations are vibrant with defined color tones and an overall cool of the gangster life is ever present, even given the innate danger of the game. If you’ve not seen the film, it’s essential you do so if you are even remotely interested in the genre or it’s brilliant cast. I won’t give away the ending, but this layered cake is one to chew on for years to come. So sweet.