Matthew Vaughn’s 2004 directorial debut Layer Cake gives more than a nod to 1970s heist movies, adding a contemporary edge of nastiness and throwing in moments of absurd humour . What could have been messy in fact comes together in – as the title suggests – neat layers: of plot; of characters from different social levels; and of differing moralities.
But above all the movie is a gangster thriller that goes at a cracking pace: pre-Bond Daniel Craig excels as the central and unnamed character torn by residual guilt, a desire to get out of his drug-dealing world before it kills him, and undoubted fear. Kenneth Cranham and Michael Gambon give good menace; Colm Meaney and George Harris provide a different type of threat, and some of the underlying humour; and Sienna Miller provides the love interest at the heart of Craig’s wish to quit the underworld.
The plot is suitably convoluted, with plenty of twists and gunplay; and the end is genuinely surprising – though in true don’t-forget-the-sequel fashion it is not fully resolved. By 2030 Layer Cake will be as well regarded as Get Carter is now, with Craig’s performance, albeit very different, bearing comparison with Michael Caine’s in that classic movie.
Current top 10
3: The Railway Children
4: The Italian Job
5: Life of Brian
7: The Third Man
8: The 39 Steps
9: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover
10: Local Hero
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