Layer Cake (Matthew Vaughn). 107 minutes. Opens Friday (June 10). For venues and times, see Movies, page 115. Rating: NN Rating: NN
As a celebration of star Daniel Craig's magnificent brow ridge, Layer Cake is an unqualified success. As a caper movie, however, it's a washout.
That's mainly the narration's fault. Without spoiling the ending by getting into the sucky framing device, let's just say that director Matthew Vaughn (who produced Snatch) and writer J.J. Connolly spin their complicated double-crossing underworld drug lord tale the way an overstimulated five-year-old tells a shaggy-dog joke - by leaving out all the important parts until it's too late, relying on meandering exposition to compensate for a lack of development and changing characters' personalities halfway through just because it's convenient.
But they lack the hypothetical five-year-old's enthusiasm. For all its twists and turns, Layer Cake is a joyless exercise.
It follows the doings of a coyly unnamed cocaine dealer (Craig) as he takes on one last job involving a shipment of ecstasy and a missing heiress before retiring.
He is, as we're constantly reminded, a smart young man surrounded by bumbling criminals and psychotic villains. James Bond movies can pull this sort of thing off because they're kidding, but Layer Cake is dead earnest. Mr. Unnamed Protagonist is meant to be the real deal, a gentleman criminal so cool he looks botoxed.
If he never cracks a smile, why should we?