Weekend Film Recommendation: Layer Cake

Given that I am in London and sitting in the very chair you see pictured here, it is only natural that I make this weekend’s film recommendation the movie in which it appears: Matthew Vaughn’s stylish and brutal Layer Cake. That’s obviously not me pictured, but the magnificent Sir Michael Gambon. He plays wily drug kingpin Eddie Temple in one of the great British gangster films (which is saying something, they have been making outstanding movies about guns and geezers over here for three quarters of a century).

The film centers on cocaine middleman “Mr. X”, played convincingly by a pre-James Bond Daniel Craig. One of the many things the film gets right about the illegal drug trade is that it includes people like Mr. X who think they can make big money while remaining untouched by the damage that drugs do downstream and the violence and immorality of the kingpins who call the shots upstream. Mr. X tells himself he is just a businessman whose commodity happens to be illegal, and that he will simply leave the drug trade behind him when he is financially secure. But when drug honcho Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham) gives him an unusual assignment, his assumptions are shattered and he quickly gets in way, way over his head. Meanwhile, he develops a serious case of the hots for a low-level gangster wannabe’s girlfriend (played by Siena Miller…rumor has it that she and Craig prepared for their sex scenes together Lee Strasberg-style).

The supporting cast is uniformly strong, especially Colm Meaney as a long-time gangster. There are some over-the-top camera shots by Vaughn which some people found self-conscious and annoying, but they work well given the kinetic story line. And Gambon’s soliloquy on “the facts of life” is as quotable and as well-delivered as anyone could ask.

p.s. This film is rated R with an exclamation point, so by all means don’t bring the kids.
p.p.s. Vaughn shot three different endings for this movie, all of which I’ve watched and he definitely picked the right one.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

2 thoughts on “Weekend Film Recommendation: Layer Cake”

  1. I haven’t seen the other versions, so I can’t compare, but I absolutely hate the ending of this movie. It’s a great movie right up until that point, though.

Comments are closed.