Firstly…there does NOT need to be more British gangster films. I can’t stress enough that we don’t need to see Cockneys vs. Zombies vs. Werewolves vs. The Further Downfall of British Cinema Because Of Tax Loopholes. 2004’s Layer Cake was somewhat marketed as a natural successor to Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Snatch. But thankfully the final film inside the DVD box positioned itself at a different level.
“I’m not a gangster. I’m a businessman; giving people what they want.” This sums up the tone of the movie and sets it apart from a run-of-the-mill East-end gangster movie. The Duke’s crew are firmly in the Lock, Stock world, but Daniel Craig’s XXXX is a criminal with a 5 year plan. His clients aren’t people in his local neighbourhood looking to shift some gear; he’s after the big financial fish in the City of London. As Jimmy Price points out in the country club, he’s a “posh boy” that uses long words in his vocabulary. When XXXX does have to get his hands dirty with some wet work; his conscience is crippled by the internal torment.
Matthew Vaughn has a keen skill of shooting with the edit in mind. He can shoot with the transitions and soundtrack in mind, and it’s acknowledging this process that gives us the amazing Freddie/The Duke transitional shot, with the surprisingly suiting “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran.
Layer Cake has a cool, hard visual tone that is uplifted by its script and soundtrack. This is a deadly illicit world that the characters are in, and the upbeat moments in its dialogue and performances provide an excellent balance. “The art of good business is being a good middle man.” Taking the film out of the monotonous East End setting and seeing the parallels all the way up the “layer cake” (from The Duke’s laddish street crew to the City’s smoking rooms) make Layer Cake a great entry in British cinema.