28 August 2012

Even Drug Dealers Don't Work Weekends

Layer Cake for me is one of those films that you put on after a few years and then realise is a forgotten favourite. You know how occasionally you'll get back with an old partner and remember what it was like to love them in the first place? Well it's kind of like that, I imagine. I say ‘imagine’ because for anyone in my history the only emotion I have is pure unadulterated contempt. There's so much hate running through me that at times it genuinely makes my balls hurt. I have recurring nightmares about getting back with one girl. In the dream I sleep with her and then remember exactly why I dumped her in the first place. I wouldn't mind but the scene starts the next morning so I don't even get to re-experience the fun of sweatily spaffing up the psycho's fat meat-muffin. The nightmare that begins with post-fuck horror is depressingly my equivalent of a wet dream, none of the joy, all of the shame. The bitch has left more scars in my head than she did on her own arms which is a ratio I hope will one day corrects itself. Until that day however I'll keep my fingers crossed, continue my downward spiral into misanthropy and get back to talking about Layer Cake.

So I hadn't seen Matthew Vaughn's crime thriller in a good few years but there was a point where I experienced it almost monthly. It was like my equivalent of a period I guess and I'd get fucking grouchy if anyone disturbed me. It seems to me that there is a British Gangster film that emerges every decade and that defines that current era. The 70's had Get Carters grim up North revenge thriller and the 80's had The Long Good Friday in which Bob Hoskins was plagued by the IRA in a London smothered by the shadow of Thatcher's big, hairy testicles. For the 90's it was probably Lock Stock, which appeared at the height of Brit Pop as bands like Blur sailed high with their cheekiness and mockney personas.

Layer Cake starts with Daniel Craig's nameless business man explaining to us why it's ok to sell drugs. His logic is that it'll be legal one day and so why not profit in the short term by supplying something that clearly has a demand. To be honest, he puts up a convincing argument. If we ever want to win the war against drugs then legalisation and rehabilitation seems like a more practical solution than prison sentences and demonisation. In my opinion, addiction to anything is as much a disease as cancer, leprosy and religion. I'm not saying that drug dealing is morally justified but that Craig's character is right. He's simply an opportunistic salesman who has found a gap in the market. As statistics will prove more lives are ruined each year through alcoholism and cigarettes than ecstasy or marijuana. He might be a cunt for what he's selling but he's no more of a cunt than the governments who profit from those other substances. At least he's not a hypocrite as well.

Like an old battered whore, Craig however has decided that enough is enough and it's time to get out of the game. Unfortunately for him though he's got one last job to do which for anyone in movies basically means you're probably going to die. Unfortunately Craig is reluctantly tasked with finding the missing daughter of Michael Gambon. I'm a huge fan of Gambon and so it's nice to see him turn up here even if he is shit-stained with so much fake tan that he looks like a gangly David Dickinson. Although Craig begins his investigations, matters complicate themselves with the appearance of some fucked up Serbian war criminals. It turns out they've had some Ecstasy pills stolen from them and they wrongly believe he is the culprit. As is so often the case when you piss off old Johnny Foreigner the only way to make peace is allow him to decapitate you. Craig therefore has to return the pills he never stole or learn how to live without a head. To be fair though it can't be that difficult to survive minus a bit off the top as Paris Hilton has so far managed without a brain since about 1981.

There are a couple of films that could be the definitive British gangster film of the naughties however I think this one slightly edges it. Like the country at the time, Craig is confidently and yet unknowingly marching towards an economic downfall. He has that post 90's yuppie feel to him and possesses the ability to pull the kind of sarcastic facial expression that only we English can. Most importantly however it is a London set crime thriller that does not in anyway feature the crackling cockney fart that is Danny Dyer. As well as having a self-reviewing and misspelt surname, Dyer is a medical condition known as movie AIDs and has appeared in a string of cinematic shite since about 2004. He's kind of like if Jason Statham had an underachieving, Down’s syndrome brother who has failed to mimic exactly what he does. If Ray Winstone took a dump, left it in the sun and it grew some hair then it would be an acting force far greater than Dyer could ever hope to be.

The other thing that Britain was renowned for in the naughties was of course our relationship with America. To some people, it looked like we were their bitch but in reality we were simply mentoring them. It used to be Britain that ran the world- if the yanks want to take over then there's no harm in a bit of support from their predecessor. It's therefore interesting to see that the very British Layer Cake was critically complemented for seeking inspiration from the sleek, smooth aesthetics of the very American Michael Mann. However for me, this is less Michael Mann and more Winding-Refn. It deals with similar themes to Pusher and has the same pulpy look as Drive. Either way, it makes the place look a lot fucking cooler than it actually is. If London is mutton then Layer Cake is whatever skinned farmyard animal that it wears to look like Lamb.

Adding to the sense of coolness is the music which features some great songs, one of which is the classic “Gimme Shelter”. That song has been used in so many gangster films that I'm sure that the Rolling Stones must be the official sponsor of organised crime. A claim which can only be backed up by Keith Richards, who is seemingly being protected by a force so intimidating that it has scared off death itself. I'm not saying I want Keith to die but it just doesn't seem fair that the 60 year old ex junkie can fall out of a palm tree and survive. I'm only 23 but I'm convinced that if I trip, I'll break a hip and then fester on the floor until my corpse looks like a mouldy rug and people wipe their shitty shoes on me.

The other and more obvious reason why Layer Cake is so cool is clearly thanks to Daniel Craig. James Bond is Britain's greatest cultural icon and it's clear from this why Craig was selected to play him. Like any male I have a huge man crush on 007 which I think is partly due to Craig's hypnotically beautiful eyes. They're so blindingly blue that they're like two giant swimming pools that I just want to swim in. Unlike most times I've gone swimming, I'd try really hard not to urinate. I can honestly say that I would never want to piss in James Bonds eyes. That's a statement I can't make in regards to Piers Morgan whose eyes are less like a swimming pool and more like two slimy portals to a soulless world of smugness and sweat. In fact the only time I wouldn't piss on Morgan would be if he was on fire which as we all know is unlikely to happen thanks to the layer of grease that protects his skin from Earth’s atmosphere. I know Morgan is nothing to do with Layer Cake but you should never pass up any chance to refer to him as an arrogant, cunt with a face like a rancid tumour inside a walrus' scrotum.

Considering that this film was prior to Craig being cast as Bond, it's enjoyable to watch the scene in which he wanders around with a gun pretending to be him. The other scene I particularly look forward to here is the encounter between Craig's associate Morty and a tramp. Here, Morty follows the standard practice of what to do if a tramp asks you for some money. He gives him a little bit to start with and then when the tramp asks for some more he caves his fucking head in. Beating a beggar up is a bit like rubbing a dogs nose in its own shit. It sounds cruel but sometimes it's the only way to get them to stop.

So all-in-all, Layer Cake is a brilliant film that needs to be watched. Not just because it's great entertainment but because it's a snap shot of what Britain was like in the early naughties. The other possibilities were In Bruges and Sexy Beast but I ruled them out due to them both being set abroad. When it comes to my country, I can't say I'm very patriotic but when it comes to British films I can say I'm proud. Sure there are more Danny Dyer movies than there should be but fuck it if they keep him off the streets and out of trouble then fine. That fact that Danny Dyer has a film career is simply a testament to our equal opportunity schemes that allow un-dead foetus's to appear on screen. Everything else aside Layer Cake is worth it simply for Michael Gambon's facts of life speech. You’re born, you take shit… you get out in the world, you take more shit…climb a little higher and you take less shit, until one day you’re on that rarefied atmosphere and you’ve forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake son…” Like a modern day “If” by Kipling that to me is pure poetry!

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