Heroes of the Zeroes: Layer Cake
Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.
Guy Ritchie’s freewheeling crime comedies often skate by on a cool quotient, but there’s never one iota of consideration for the consequences — fun but disposable.
After bailing on Ritchie after several films of producing patronage, Matthew Vaughn took a hard left from cartoon glamorization to the solar-plexus wallop of reality in “Layer Cake,” his 2004 directorial debut.
Thick accents and thicker double-crosses permeated this British gangster thriller. It’s just as stylish and sleek as Ritchie’s work — note the lyrically appropriate use of Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World” in one shockingly graphic sequence — but more assuredly delirious, ethically hefty and unpredictably treacherous.
Pacifist drug dealer XXXX (Daniel Craig) suffers from a delusion that he can detach himself from his business’s brutish violence. Poised to set sail with an early-retirement score, XXXX agrees to a favor for his biggest buyer and embarks on a wild ride through the underbelly of a criminal empire packed with proper villains.
In a pre-Bond role demanding believable bravado, Craig oozes cool but conveys true terror both when he believes he’ll die and when he knows he’s reached a point of no return. It’s a testament to Craig’s skills and tectonic shifts in J.J. Connolly’s script (adapted from his novel) that it seems XXXX might reach the surface as the water rises.
While XXXX sought rarefied air where he could “forget what shit looks like,” “Layer Cake’s” multifaceted anarchy recalled “Carlito’s Way” and detailed the danger of being distracted by fancy letterhead and not reading fine print.