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Planning to retire and begin a new life, Mr. X, a successful West End drug dealer, has been asked for one last favor: to negotiate the sale of one million hits of Ecstasy. Unfortunately for Mr. X, the pills were stolen from a Serbian drug lord who'll cut off his head if he sells them. And with a London crime czar promising to retire him permanently if he doesn't, Mr. X may be rightfully concerned about his future.
For more about Layer Cake and the Layer Cake Blu-ray release, see Layer Cake Blu-ray Review published by Ben Williams on August 30, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Daniel Craig, Colm Meaney, Kenneth Cranham, George Harris, Jamie Foreman, Tom Hardy
Director: Matthew Vaughn
» See full cast & crew
Layer Cake Blu-ray Review
Only in the U.K.
Reviewed by Ben Williams, August 30, 2007
The burgeoning genre of British crime films has undergone a metamorphosis over the past decade. Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch latched onto the oft-mimicked Tarantino-esque style born from Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, translating it into a decidedly English affair. Layer Cake is, perhaps, my favorite of this group; the film manages to seamlessly meld a cool, sleek look to a gritty underworld tale with genuine intrigue and well-drawn characters.
Daniel Craig stars as "Mr. X," a high-end drug dealer who is poised to leave his life of crime behind for a luxurious and well deserved retirement. It should come as no surprise to anyone that like most cautionary crime tales, "Mr. X" can't resist the temptation to pass up one final and dangerous score. Matters are made even more difficult when a local crime boss demands that X assist him in locating a runaway teen. With several crime families, a sultry blonde and a nasty assassin thrown in the mix, this last score might just be more than he bargained for.
Layer Cake is so incredibly entertaining that I have a hard time finding anything to criticize about the film. An impressive ensemble cast delivers a series of stellar performances; aided in no small part by a remarkable script and a unique visual look. Rumor has it that Daniel Craig so impressed the producers of the James Bond films with his performance in Layer Cake, that he was offered the role of James Bond practically on the spot. The story of Layer Cake moves at a very brisk pace with a generous amount of information being presented in its relatively short 105 minute running time. Viewers will need to devote their full attention to the plot and dialogue; several of the thick cockney accents in the film are occasionally a bit difficult to understand. Regardless, this is an exciting and thoroughly original movie that managed to somehow find itself overlooked at box offices back in 2004. Be on the lookout for memorably strong supporting performances from Colm Meaney, George Harris and Sienna Miller; who makes her film debut while turning out a sexy and restrained performance. Layer Cake is seriously entertaining and should be included on the short-list of any film fan's must-see agenda.
Layer Cake Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in pristine Mpeg-2, Layer Cake makes its long-awaited Blu-ray debut with a fantastic transfer of stunning accuracy and clarity. I was impressed with the sumptuous shadow detail and inky black levels that this encode handles flawlessly. This is oftentimes a very dark film, yet the picture never rolls off in the darker scenes. Compression artifacts are never present in the transfer and I noticed no distracting picture anomalies. Dimensionality is also extremely impressive throughout the film. The opening scene, featuring a stroll through a computer generated illicit drugstore, is probably the most colorful scene in the film; the multitude of vivid hues strike a stark contrast to the film's mostly subdued palette. While Layer Cake might not qualify as the epitome of demonstration-level video, it is an accurately and carefully encoded product. Having seen the film on several occasions theatrically, I was immediately impressed at Sony's ability to remain consistent with those viewings.
Layer Cake is an unusual looking film that paints a unique portrait of London's seedier side. If accuracy and the preservation of a film-like image are high on your list of hallmarks for a quality transfer, you won't be disappointed. Highly recommended.
Layer Cake Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Sony has made a habit of providing outstanding uncompressed PCM soundtracks for their Blu-ray releases; Layer Cake is no exception. This is an aggressive and powerful soundtrack with an impressive level of subtle nuance. Dialogue passages are perfectly rendered and the film's modern rock soundtrack strikes a nice balance between some of the film's more violent scenes and its quieter dialogue-heavy passages. About mid-way through the film, there is a shocking fight scene that occurs in a London diner. As a strange counterpoint to the brutal violence on-screen, the Duran Duran song "Ordinary World" is kicked up to top volume on the soundtrack and makes its presence felt in all six speakers. It's a shocking and bizarre way to score a brutal beating, yet remains a perfect representation of the unique sound design that makes Layer Cake such a remarkably off-beat entry into the Blu-ray catalog.
Bass response is particularly impressive on this disc while never sacrificing high-frequency information. Surround activity has also been creatively applied and is used in abundance. Layer Cake remains one of Sony's most impressive early 5.1 Lossless PCM tracks and should prove to be pleasing to the most demanding audiophiles. Highly recommended.
Layer Cake Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Here's what's included:
-"Making of Layer Cake"
-Q&A with Daniel Craig and Matthew Vaughn
-14 Deleted Scenes
-Commentary with Matthew Vaughn and J.J. Connolly
As a bit of a departure from the majority of Sony's Blu-ray releases, Layer Cake is pretty well loaded with high-quality extras. First up, "The Making of Layer Cake" is a short making-of documentary that offers little substance. Fear not, as the next extra, a lengthy Q&A with Director Matthew Vaughn and Daniel Craig, is both informative and entertaining. The 14 deleted scenes are of varying quality but do serve as a curiosity to fans of the film. The alternate endings among these scenes are particularly interesting; I'm really glad that the filmmakers opted to use the original scripted ending instead of the alternate ending that is presented on this disc. Lastly, the commentary from Matthew Vaughn and J.J. Connolly is remarkably informative; adding quite a bit of back-story to the film.
Layer Cake Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Layer Cake is a fantastically entertaining film featuring great performances and an inspired and wholly original story. Perhaps given the film's confusing lack of success in the United States, this Blu-ray edition will provide film buffs with a perfect opportunity to experience a movie that deserves an audience. With both near-reference audio and video and a satisfying set of extras, Layer Cake is a worthy addition to the permanent collection of anyone who appreciates films that rise above genre and tired cliches. Highly recommended!
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