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Layer Cake
DVD disk
08.23.2005 By: Scott Weinberg
Layer Cake order
Director:
Matthew Vaughn

Actors:
Daniel Craig
Sienna Miller
Colm Meaney

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
An unnamed drug salesman finds himself in deep trouble after an associate tries to sell him some stolen Ecstasy pills, thereby sparking a truly convoluted chain of events that has half of the London underworld gunning for a piece of the cake.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
First-time director Matthew Vaughn has been the producer on both of Guy Ritchie's well-adored gangster flicks, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, so when he announced that he'd be helming his own tale of British bad-asses, just about everyone expected Layer Cake to be cut from the exact same piece of cloth.

But, aside from a few visual touches here and there, Layer Cake is very much its own brand of gangster drama; it's a lot more literate than Ritchie's flick ... but it's also a bit more confusing. Vaughn's only misstep here is that he introduces way too many characters in way too little time, which means that when the double-crosses start flying and the corpses begin to pile up, we're still trying to catch up on which guy's called "Paulie."

But having seen Layer Cake twice now, I'm able to follow the various plot threads with a lot less difficulty. All you really need to know is this: character XXXX (as played quite excellently by Daniel Craig) is a drug-runner who desperately wants to finish one last gig before enjoying a young retirement. Keep your eyes glued to all the various junkies, kingpins, stooges, and henchmen (while always keeping track of their names), and you'll make it through the Layer Cake maze all right. It's a flick that challenges you to keep up, and those who are able to will undoubtedly enjoy the payoffs that much more.

It's clear that Mr. Vaughn may have learned a few trick from his old pal Guy Ritchie, but I bet he forges ahead and earns some high-end accolades of his very own. This is a smart, stylish, and slick little serpentine of a movie -- just make sure to give it two full visits before you cast your vote. (Like you haven't watched Snatch at least four times...)

THE EXTRAS
The DVD is layered (bwaha, get it?) with extra goodies, and I'll try to keep the puns to a minimum from here on out.

There's a feature-length audio commentary with director Matthew Vaughn and author/screenwriter J.J. Connelly that's mellow, low-key, laid-back, and rather quietly informative. The filmmakers discuss their war stories with tact and honesty, never seeming to toe any sort of company line -- which is actually pretty refreshing.

You can pick through 14 deleted scenes and a pair of alternate endings, and then go back and watch 'em with the optional writer/director commentary!

A 29-minute Q & A Session with Matthew Vaughn and Daniel Craig was recorded from London's National Film Theatre in September, 2004, and it's included here for your entertainment and illumination. Good questions all around, and the filmmakers are surprisingly forthcoming with many of their answers.

The Making of Layer Cake is vibrant but fairly standard 6-minute promotional piece with interview segments from Vaughn, Craig, the stunningly gorgeous Sienna Miller, and actors Jamie Foreman, Sally Hawkins, Colm Meaney & Michael Gambon.

Serving as the icing on this overstuffed DVD cake (sorry) are a pair of Storyboard Comparisons, a collection of 20-some poster concepts, and a handful of trailers for Kung Fu Hustle, Snatch, and Dave Chapelle: For What It's Worth. (Somewhat disappointingly, there are no trailer for Layer Cake included, one of which was a rather cool teaser concept.)

FINAL DIAGNOSIS
It's not as snarky or outlandish at the Vaughn/Ritchie collaborations, but the producer morphs into a bona-fide director with this very stylish (and only occasionally confusing) modern gangster thriller. Fun stuff indeed, even if you might need the subtitles to help decipher all the Britspeak.
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