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Written by Funn Lim
 

"The moment she (Sienna Miller) spoke, the entire scene was ruined."

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SPOILERS ... SPOILERS ... SPOILERS
Released in
2004

Based on
A book with the same title written by J.J. Connolly.

Cast-Character
Daniel Craig ... XXXX
Tom Hardy ... Clarkie
Jamie Foreman ... Duke
Sally Hawkins ... Slasher
Burn Gorman ... Gazza
George Harris ... Morty
Tamer Hassan ... Terry
Colm Meaney ... Gene
Marcel Iures ... Slavo
Francis Magee ... Paul the Boatman
Dimitri Andreas ... Angelo
Kenneth Cranham ... Jimmy Price
Garry Tubbs ... Brian
Nathalie Lunghi ... Charlie
Marvin Benoit ... Kinky (as Marvyn Benoit)
Ben Whishaw ... Sidney
Sienna Miller ... Tammy

Plot Summary
Taken from IMDB.com

A successful cocaine dealer, who has earned a respected place among England's Mafia elite, plans an early retirement from the business. However, big boss Jimmy Price hands down a tough assignment: find Charlotte Ryder, the missing rich princess daughter of Jimmy's old pal Edward, a powerful construction business player and gossip papers socialite. Complicating matters are two million pounds' worth of Grade A ecstasy, a brutal neo-Nazi sect and a whole series of double crossings. The title "LAYER CAKE" refers to the layers or levels anyone in business goes through in rising to the top. What is revealed is a modern underworld where the rules have changed. There are no 'codes', or 'families' and respect lasts as long as a line. Not knowing who he can trust, he has to use all his 'savvy', 'telling' and skills which make him one of the best, to escape his own. The ultimate last job, a love interest called Tammy, and an international drug ring threaten to draw him back into the 'cake mix'. But, time is running out and the penalty will endure a lifetime.

Comments
I may not be accurate about the plot summary which I have written below this paragraph but I didn't make a mistake when I typed the title. It is L4yer Cake as in Se7ev or Sle7in. Don't ask me why, maybe it is hip to misspell with an impossible to pronounce word. Anyway this movie was directed by Matthew Vaughn, Mr Claudia Schiffer for those uninitiated and rumour has it this movie was what got Daniel Craig noticed by his future major employer, those at the 007 camp, Barbara Brocolli. However it is a huge mistake to assume this role is Bond-ish because it is very far removed from the Bond factor. I suspect he got the role simply because he has magnetic screen presence and somehow Barbara Brocolli saw past the skinny frame (when clothed) and saw a very untraditionally handsome man, which I suspect that scene with his half naked helped since he didn't look that skinny without his clothes on. Whatever is the reason, L4yer Cake is an enjoyable movie on many levels that is very British feel if you ask me with a storyline that gets more and more out of hand as the story goes towards an ending that may shock you. I said may because what I like about the ending is there is no good ending, more so for a drug dealer.

This movie is about an unnamed drug dealer and the only regret a viewer may have is when you almost know his name, he met his fate. So for simplicity sake, Daniel Craig is credited as XXXX. Not XXX but XXXX. He has no name since he narrates his own story and no one says his name since well they just appear and speak right into his face. What is interesting about this movie is how unglamarous a drug dealer is. He doesn't just deal with ecstacy pills, he deals with heroin and cocaine as well. He is not a small time dealer, he is in fact a big time dealer working for a boss who works for a bigger boss (Michael Gambon) but after many years involved in a trade that requires total anonymity, he decides to retire. However he couldn't retire just yet because he want to make one last big deal for the money. And right in the middle of that he has to deal with a bunch of first timers tigger happy nervous looking dealers who stole a big bag of ecstacy pill belonging to the Russian mafia who is hunting them down and XXXX is interested in purchasing those pills. Then he meets a woman that ignites his lust, Tammy (Sienna Miller) who well... no story for that one, although this woman indirectly contributed to his end. And mixed into that his boss and his boss' boss asking, in not a very nice way to help them to do something that is to find his missing daughter and he ended up being beaten up badly by his fellow colleagues who thought he betrayed one of their own. It's a mad world XXXX is in and it is his aim to retire clean, rich and alive. No easy task.

There were times I couldn't follow the whole plot since well my English is not so good you see and there are so many types of accent, ranging from easy to very difficult to hear and the sound system isn't so good, maybe just my DVD. Made worse is that this movie is dialogue heavy but get past all that, it is a highly enjoyable movie. Male audiences loved it, female audiences loved it too although maybe for an entirely different reason.

I normally don't like this kind of story and I avoid any story about dealers, robbers or such which talks about one big last heist or the likes. Howeve this movie sets itself apart from the norm. What I like most though is that British feel that somehow is very English. The direction, the storytelling, the acting... can't seem to find such style in Hollywood which is interesting in itself. The performances are most top notch, except for that one that nearly killed this movie.

Sienna Miller was totally and horribly overrated as an actress and worse still, overrated itself is still not enough to describe how overrated she is. Why is it that bad actors always bat their eyelids so fast, ala Madonna? Her first scene with Daniel Craig was supposed to be very seductive in the sense he fell in lust with her, as she danced sexily to the music whilst smoking and staring at him. The moment she spoke, the entire scene was ruined. In fact her appearance in this movie ruined that scene. Although Daniel Craig as XXXX really looked like he was about to jump on her, with such desire in his eyes even with the loud music and a young man yacking away next to him, his steel blue eyes only had eyes for her and she knew it and he knew she knew he knew it. Could that have been a real attraction? Because rumours had it they were having affair, maybe not during the filming of this movie but later? I couldn't help but believe it true. Many male co-stars were simply enamoured with her and in this movie, Daniel Craig was clearly smitten. I wouldn't even say XXXX but I would say the man himself. The next scene she was in the scene where they had kinda like dirty talk over the phone and she went to his hotel, they kissed, she changed into lingerie, he got bundled off to see Michael Gambon's character. That was probably the only scene she did well like in all movies she made where she had to be either naked or near naked. But that takes experience, not acting chops. The final scene she was in was the last scene as she was walking with the now retired XXXX. In fact she had very few lines, with or without her the movie will not die and even if without her it is not difficult to understand why XXXX died although he was shot by a jealous boyfriend. The thing is Sienna Miller contributed nothing of significance to this movie and she almost spoilt it with her awful performance. And yet there you see her name on the DVD covers and I assume her legs, making it look like some Roger Moore type of Bond movie poster. And yes, even in her other roles, Casanova (where she delivered a plea of love without a single emotion in her eyes), Stardust (where she was more terrible than haughty) and every movies she has ever made including Factory Girl (overacting). She is not worse than Madonna but then Madonna is a singer trying to be an actress and this Sienna Miller is an actress trying to be an actress. She just is an amateur and at the end of the day she is to me Hollywood's most overrated actress who is forever on the list of who's who without any concrete credit that that is because of her acting. If anyone is to be described as hot by association, she's the one. In other words, she was terrible in this movie.

Other than this woman, everyone else did a credible job from Colm Meany to Kingsley Shacklebolt ... I mean George Harris (well he played Kingsley Shacklebolt in Harry Potter movies). Even Michael Gambon with his face looking like the world is doomed played his part well although he may have been a total miscast as Dumbledore.

However the star was Daniel Craig himself. Considered his breakout movie role, after his Bond success the studio may have tried to repackage L4yer Cake as a pre-Bond film with his XXXX in leather jacket and holding guns, which is as far away from the characterisation of XXXX as protraying James Bond as an impotent fool, so to speak. XXXX hates guns by the way and he isn't that equipped in terms of ability to protect himself by the fist. What he has is cunning, and he is simply trying to retire alive and rich. But the repackaging worked and this movie got highlighted again as a must watch and now almost most reviews will write how this role got him the Bond role which is strange.

I must admit though, as skinny as he was in here, he has a body that is naturally crafted like those statutes in Greece. Beautiful pecs and all which I guess is in the jeans. I am just glad he put on some weight as he was very skinny in here although XXXX who sells drugs is not a drug addict himself. He is too smart for that.

There is no moral repurcussions in this movie. If you're looking for a moral debate about drug dealers and all, there isn't one. Even the end has nothing to do with the drugs, it was more personal rather than professional. XXXX has no police on his trail as he successfully hides himself from the authorities and doesn't show off with a brand new Aston Martin or dressed with killer suits. In fact Bond is more of a show off than him and considering Bond is a spy, that is a big thing. What this movie tells is really just about XXXX, retiring and facing some professional dilemma.

And that I believe is what makes this movie popular. The problems that XXXX faced is almost comical, it is almost funny, the lines are sometimes witty and the way he went about trying desperately to solve his own problems before he could retire is almost hilarious. Almost because the viewers know if he fails his life would be at stake. This is a man desperate to safeguard his own interest without stepping on everyone else's toes so as to make it out alive. The best scene had to be his reaction to the use of guns (he hated it) and the most memorable scene where his black colleague who seemed so calm and zen like and quiet all the time exploded and beaten someone to death, much to his shock. The shocked look on his face was priceless and very funny when that guy said now he had to run since he killed someone, and he just ran, leaving XXXX standing by the roadside, still shocked. For a man who is dealing with drugs, he must have been those kind that deals with drugs but does not deal with the violence that is sometimes associated with drugs. You get a feeling that he is in the end just a businessman, although he may be dealing in illegal substance. And a businessman who is about to retire will try his best not to dirty his hands, since he never did dirty his hands before.

Daniel Craig's performance borderlines on a man who tries very hard to keep his composure but he is wrecked with an increasing fear and panic that he may be digging his own grave. His XXXX is desperate, scared, and is pushed to do things he didn't want to do but he had no choice. I think he is not your typical image of the tough street cred drug dealer and gives a different perspective to a rather romanticised image of a dealer. And I like that. And yes, he can act really well, very magnetic and his eyes draws you in. His XXXX is neither brave or heroic nor tough or a bully, just human being trying to make a decent living at the end of the day.

So if there is a reason to watch this movie, I don't think watching it with a pre-conception that it is like a Bond type of movie will help you to enjoy the film. You will be severely disappointed. But if you watch it to see a highly entertaining movie about survival (it feels that way to me) and to watch why Daniel Craig was chosen as Bond which has nothing to do with his character but rather the way he could strut around looking cool and calm when inside he is filled with fear and panic, this is the movie for you. This at the end of the day is an ensemble piece that works best when all elements are seen together rather than pinpoint one single reason. Moreover it is the fact that it is an ensemble piece that managed to save this from total annihilation by one single person which I am sure you already know who.

Verdict
For Daniel Craig, YESSSS!!! For Sienna Miller, NEVERRRRRRR!!! Anyway a really interesting movie with Daniel Craig signature character; inwardly increasing panic, outwardly an epitome of calm but with panicky eyes. You know what I mean.

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