Boasting a whole litany of reasons for its R rating, Layer Cake delivers a hard-nosed, well-paced, intricate plot revolving around drugs, murder, and the games hoods of the three-piece-suit variety like to play. I must emphasize the word intricate - not being a natural devotee of gangster films, I had a little trouble keeping up with some of the twists - there's a pretty large number of heavies involved here, and some of the guys' thick accents didn't make things any easier for me. Basically, I just sat back and took everything as it came - even if it meant running into D just when I had figured out the connections between A, B, and C. I'm not saying the movie doesn't make sense, though, because it does - it's just more complicated than your typical mindless thriller. It is a nice change, however, to watch a movie that actually encourages the act of thinking on the part of the viewer.
I'll get in trouble if I try to describe too much of the plot. You've got this nameless dude (Daniel Craig), who's sort of upper middle class in the whole fancy gangster regime, who has no choice but to finally get his hands dirty on what he intends to be his last job. First, he's got to find the girl of one of his boss's associates, and second, he's got to arrange for the sale of a cool million pops of Ecstasy. Unfortunately, those drugs are in the hands of a big-mouthed flunkie calling himself the Duke, and he stole them from some tough Serbian joes who just aren't going to take that kind of thing lying down. Things just don't go according to plan from the start, especially when our unnamed protagonist's own associates are liable to go off half-cocked at any given moment, but the whole mess is made even more complicated when another slimy fatcat joins the fun. All of these people are connected, some going way back, but I would need several diagrams and about a half hour to explain all that. All you need to know is that our anti-hero finds himself in a real bind, stuck between the drugs he can't get his hands on and one of Europe's most dangerous hitmen - and with friends like this fellow has, he really doesn't need any enemies.
It's the ultimate game of survival for our protagonist, as he'll have to outwit, outplay, and outlast all of the other players in the game. You have to sort of like the guy, just because everyone else is slimier than he is. There's a girl in the mix, too, of course, but it's violence rather than nudity that wins this film its R rating. All of these guys play for keeps, and it's inevitable that the weak and stupid get offed. I would have liked to have seen more blood (as head shots really should be messier than they are here), but I certainly can't complain about the level of violence on display in Layer Cake. The whole thing is a cool, sleek production with a darn good soundtrack (including the obligatory Gimme Shelter), a challenging storyline, and impressive performances by all concerned (with Michael Gambon, as you might expect, standing head and shoulders above the rest). There's even a surprise or two thrown in just for kicks.