Layer Cake (film)

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Layer Cake
Layer Cake Poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMatthew Vaughn
Produced by
  • Adam Bohling
  • David Reid
  • Matthew Vaughn
Screenplay byJ. J. Connolly
Based onLayer Cake
by J. J. Connolly
Music byLisa Gerrard
Ilan Eshkeri
CinematographyBen Davis
Edited byJon Harris
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • 1 October 2004 (2004-10-01)
Running time
105 minutes[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Budget$6.5 million[2]
Box office$11.9 million[3]

Layer Cake (also occasionally stylised as L4YER CAKƐ) is a 2004 British crime film directed by Matthew Vaughn, in his directorial debut. The screenplay was adapted by J. J. Connolly from his novel of the same name. The film's plot revolves around a London-based criminal known as XXXX, played by Daniel Craig, working in the trade of cocaine who wishes to leave the drug business. The film also features Tom Hardy, Colm Meaney, and Sienna Miller.

The film was produced by Adam Bohling, David Reid and Matthew Vaughn, with Stephen Marks as executive producer. The title refers to the social strata, especially in the British criminal underworld.


XXXX, a 30-something man, is a London underworld criminal who has established himself as one of the biggest cocaine suppliers in the city, with legitimate cover. Considering himself a businessman and patience as a virtue, XXXX leaves the darker aspects of the business to his henchman Morty, a man having recently ended a 10-year prison sentence for murder. Once he has earned enough to be financially secure, XXXX plans to retire.

On the evening XXXX intends to set these plans into motion, his sponsor and supplier Jimmy Price tells him to do two favours. The first is to track down Charlie, the teenage daughter of Jimmy's associate Eddie Temple, who has fled a rehabilitation centre along with her drug-addicted boyfriend Kinky. XXXX decides to enlist two con men, Cody and Tiptoes, to find them. They find the boyfriend dead and Charlie apparently kidnapped, although no ransom has been demanded.

The second favour is to organise the purchase and distribution of one million ecstasy tablets from a low-level gangster who styles himself "The Duke". Unbeknownst to XXXX, the pills had been stolen from a gang of Serbian war criminals based in the Netherlands, a massive drug production outfit with an honour-avenging bent.

XXXX encounters the Duke's out-of-touch nephew Sidney at a bar and becomes attracted to his disillusioned girlfriend Tammy. XXXX tries to broker the sale of the ecstasy pills to Liverpool gangsters Trevor and Shanks but they refuse, knowing where the E comes from and that the Serbs have sent an assassin, known as Dragan, to find the pills and kill the thieves. Duke had mentioned XXXX's name to the Serbs, so he too is in danger. Members of the Duke's gang soon start turning up dead and the Duke himself goes missing.

XXXX arranges a tryst with Tammy but before it can be consummated, he is kidnapped by henchmen of Eddie Temple. Eddie informs him that Jimmy Price has recently lost £13 million in a failed investment in Africa and wanted Charlie as a hostage until Eddie got his money back. Jimmy was also hoping to sell the pills to recoup his losses; Eddie plays XXXX a recording which reveals that Jimmy has been an informant for Scotland Yard for years and intends to betray XXXX to the police as soon as the deal is done, to gain clemency and take XXXX's wealth. Eddie demands that XXXX sells the pills to him instead.

A furious XXXX shoots and kills Jimmy at his home but does so with a gun that Gene, Jimmy's henchman and his main liaison with XXXX, had used to commit murder, putting Gene under police attention. XXXX discovers that his accountant, who operated his legitimate front and was referred to him by Jimmy Price, has stolen all of his money and disappeared. Gene and Morty suspect XXXX of foul play; after being shown the evidence that Jimmy is a grass, the pair acknowledge XXXX as the new acting boss and show him the corpse of the Duke. Gene killed him along with girlfriend and crime-partner, Slasher, when the latter threatened to alert the police about the pills.

XXXX tips the police off to the Duke's hideout, who raid it. XXXX is present during the raid to feign purchasing the pills from the Duke's crew and Dragan, who has been following XXXX, witnesses the raid from afar as the police confiscate the drugs and XXXX and Duke's surviving crew escape. XXXX has arranged for Cody and Tiptoes to infiltrate the police and con the unit out of the pills. XXXX delivers the severed head of the Duke to Dragan as a peace offering, who reports to his Serbian boss that the police have seized the drugs. Cody and Tiptoes return the drugs to XXXX in exchange for a fee and XXXX in turn looks to sell them to Eddie Temple as planned. During the handover at the latter's bonded warehouse, Eddie's henchmen rob his crew of the drugs at gunpoint. To end XXXX's faux assignment given by Jimmy, Eddie reveals that his daughter Charlie's boyfriend died at his men's hands; she was recovered before Jimmy Price ever sent XXXX to look for her and Eddie had her back in rehab all along.

To mollify XXXX, Eddie gives him a "Welcome to the Layer Cake"; a membership to the Stoke Park Country Club of which he is (and Jimmy was) a member. Expecting betrayal, XXXX arranges for Trevor, Shanks and young Dizzy to steal the drugs back from Eddie's men. The gang assembles for lunch at the Stoke Park Club, honouring their new boss XXXX who sticks to his plan for retirement. When leaving the club with Tammy, mentally running through the names of his fellow murdered businessmen he hopes to avoid joining, XXXX is shot by a heart-broken Sidney. XXXX collapses bleeding and he lies twitching on the front steps while contemplating his possible death.



Filming began in June 2003. Queen's Gate Mews, SW7, was used as the filming location for the home of Daniel Craig's character XXXX.[4]


The soundtrack from Layer Cake is composed of 14 tracks.

  1. "Hayling" – FC Kahuna
  2. "Opening" – Ilan Eshkeri and Steve McLaughlin
  3. "She Sells Sanctuary" – The Cult
  4. "Can't Get Blue Monday Out of My Head" (Original Radio Edit) – Kylie Minogue
  5. "You Got the Love" (Original bootleg radio mix) – The Source feat. Candi Staton
  6. "Drive to the Boatyard" – Ilan Eshkeri
  7. "Junky Fight" – Lisa Gerrard
  8. "Making Plans for Nigel" – XTC
  9. "Ordinary World" – Duran Duran
  10. "Ruthless Gravity" – Craig Armstrong
  11. "Four to the Floor" (Soulsavers Mix) – Starsailor
  12. "Drive to the Warehouse" – Ilan Eshkeri and Lisa Gerrard
  13. "Aria" (Layer Cake Speech) – Lisa Gerrard with Michael Gambon
  14. "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" – Joe Cocker

The Rolling Stones song "Gimme Shelter" also features in the film but does not appear on the soundtrack album.


Box office[edit]

Film Release date Box office revenue Box office ranking Budget Reference
Worldwide United States United States International Worldwide All time United States All time worldwide
Layer Cake May 2005 May 2005 $2,339,957 $9,510,257 $11,850,214 #5,288 Unknown $6.5 million[2] [3]

Critical response[edit]

Film Rotten Tomatoes Metacritic Entertainment Weekly
Layer Cake 81% (133 reviews)[5] 73/100 (30 reviews)[6] A[7]

Layer Cake received positive reviews, with an 81% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average of 7.1/10 based on 134 reviews. The critical consensus states that it is "A stylized, electric British crime thriller".[5] The film has an average score of 73 based on 30 reviews on Metacritic.[7]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times remarked, "The movie was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who produced Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, and this one works better than those films because it doesn't try so hard to be clever and tries harder to be menacing". Of Craig's performance, he said, "Craig is fascinating here as a criminal who is very smart, and finds that is not an advantage because while you might be able to figure out what another smart person is about to do, dumbos like the men he works for are likely to do anything". He gave the film 3.5/4 stars. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle remarked on the "efficient, gripping story" and wrote that Craig's performance as an improvising, "intelligent amateur" contained the "cool-yet-humble vibe of Steve McQueen".[8]

Craig's starring role in the film has been cited as the performance that led to his high-profile casting as James Bond.[9]

Home media[edit]

Layer Cake was released on DVD and VHS on 23 August 2005 and on Blu-ray in 2007. It was also re-released in 2014.


Jason Statham's production company is said to have the rights to produce a sequel, entitled Viva La Madness with Statham taking the XXXX role from Craig. On 17 September 2015, it was reported that Viva La Madness will be a TV show for Gaumont International Television.[10]


  1. ^ "LAYER CAKE (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 10 August 2004. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Layer Cake (2005)". the-numbers. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  3. ^ a b "Layer Cake (2005)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  4. ^ Mews News. Lurot Brand. Published Spring 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Layer Cake". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  6. ^ "Layer Cake". Metacritic. CBS. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Layer Cake". Metacritic. CBS. 13 May 2005. Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  8. ^ "Nothing sweet about 'Layer Cake' thugs". SFGate.
  9. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (30 June 2008). "Daniel Craig's Role As James Bond Allowed Him To Become A 'Fool' – Movie News Story | MTV Movie News". Retrieved 27 October 2012.
  10. ^ Prudom, Laura. "Jason Statham to Star in TV Drama 'Viva La Madness' from Gaumont". Retrieved 17 September 2015.

External links[edit]