Layer Cake (Blu-ray)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

I’m sure, somewhere, there’s a debate raging over which the better movie is: “Snatch” or “Layer Cake”. Though the two were made by the same folks and contain the same subject matter, “Layer Cake” has to deal with the drug market and “Snatch” diamonds. Granted, both have ensemble casts and I’d have to give the edge to “Snatch” purely for Brad Pitt’s performance as the tormented Pikey boxer. Each movie has their pros and cons, of course and “Snatch” was almost immediately compared to “Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels”, a rather unique film in its own right. Regardless of which of the three is your personal favorite, you’re bound to like one of them and they’re all still good films. For the time being, though, let’s call a spade a spade: “Layer Cake” is on Blu-ray because it stars on Daniel Craig and it coincidentally came out the same day as “Casino Royale”. Good timing? Sure? However, lest we forget, Mr. Craig (as did every other man who has or will play James Bond) had an acting career before he donned the tux and this was one of his better performances.

Craig plays Mr. X (listed as “XXXX” in the ending credits), a very successful and disciplined drug dealer who has decided to take the high road and get out while it’s good. The thing is that his contacts don’t really want to see that happen and offer him one last job while he’s still in their employ. A large amount of ecstasy has come onto the scene and they need Mr. X to help negotiate the sale of it. The drugs are stolen, of course, and the people in charge of it don’t know what they’re doing – they just see dollar signs (oops, better make that pound signs). Mr. X also has to find Charlotte, the daughter of a friend of Jimmy’s (Kenneth Cranham). Jimmy just happens to be the one pulling the strings the entire time as well. Mr. X unwillingly agrees to everything and of course nothing goes to plan. Can Mr. X leave the game or will he end up a victim?

I’m not one who really gravitates towards the English cinema all too often, I find a lot of the films to be a bit dull and boring though some I rank among the best out there (“The Third Man” and “A Clockwork Orange” which I do consider to be British). I find it a bit hard to follow the dialogue and especially with movies like “Snatch” and “Layer Cake” I almost feel that I need the subtitles on just to keep up. Still, Craig gives a great performance here – frustrated and annoyed, he is the backbone of “Layer Cake”. I’ve also heard Sienna Miller’s name thrown around a lot in the media, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen her on screen and all I have to say is…Wow. I’ll certainly be looking forward to seeing her in future films. While it might not be everyone’s cup of teak “Layer Cake” is a bit different and offbeat. For fans of “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrels” this one is an easy recommendation.

Video: How does it look?

“Layer Cake” is shown in a beautiful 2.40:1 MPEG-2 HD transfer. I had never seen the film on standard DVD, but I think I can safely say that this is far better-looking than the DVD that came out a few years back. Colors are bright and vivid and contrast is right on the mark. I was also impressed by the detail, which is certainly a selling-point of the HD formats. Daniel Craig has very interesting features and the lines in his face seem to tell a story of their own. Naturally, seeing Sienna Miller in lingerie only intensifies the point that this is a top notch transfer with absolutely no downside. I won’t call this a perfect transfer, but it’s the next best thing. High marks here and another fine effort by Sony.

Audio: How does it sound?

Just as impressive as the video quality is the audio. As usual, Sony offers up an uncompressed PCM soundtrack that really brings out the life in the film. While not so in your face as some other tracks, “Layer Cake” has moments where all of the sonics are engaged and literally surrounding you. At other key moments in the movie, the strong dialogue is what we pay attention to. I switched back to the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack a few times during the film and though there’s not a huge difference, it’s there. People expecting a great-sounding mix will be happy to hear how this sounds on Blu-ray.

Supplements: What are the extras?

“Layer Cake” also contains a fair amount of supplements as well. The commentary track by director Matthew Vaughn and J.J. Connolly is somewhat decent if not overly technical. Still, a lot can be learned about the shot process and what it took to bring this movie from script to screen. Next up are some deleted scenes and a couple of alternate endings (the theatrical ending is a bit shocking I must say). Lastly, a 30 minute Q and A session with Daniel Craig and director Matthew Vaughn is shown in its entirety and is by far the best supplement on the disc. Anything you’d want to know about the movie is pretty much covered here and I’d say listen to this rather than the commentary track.

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