Almost eight years ago, now, I watched the horror movie Dream House. This was a 2011 flick staring the James Bond for the new generation, Daniel Craig. The movie itself received some ugly reviews as did the lead actors for their performance. Craig himself seemed to admit to a lack of effort on his part stating, “The movie didn’t turn out great, but I met my wife – fair trade!”
At this time, I had seen Casino Royale (2006 version) and was very impressed. I’d yet to watch Quantum of Solace, so my opinion on Craig as Bond was entirely untarnished by the lesser movies that followed his debut. While I saw that Dream House had received some really awful reviews, I liked the looks of the preview and figured I’d watch it anyway. Funny thing is, I actually kind of enjoyed it. Maybe it was low expectations or maybe I have a different taste than most horror fans, but I thought it was altogether worthwhile*. Also, despite having read that Craig had “phoned in” his performance in this movie, I liked his work in Dream House well enough.
Somewhere in all of this, I read that Craig had gotten his start in a movie called Layer Cake. For this performance he received several (European-centered) Best Actor nominations. It is also written that it was his Layer Cake role that got him noticed and demonstrated his potential to play James Bond. I put the film on my list figuring it would be more and better of what I had already enjoyred. However, these finer details slip from the memory as time goes by and, based purely on the description of the film in its blurb, it actually looks kind of drab. According to the description from Netflix this is another film about a career criminal who “longs to ditch his illegal trade[, b]ut he can’t do that without wrapping up just one more job.” Snore.
Other aspects of the marketing pitch don’t help, either. The Netflix “poster” calls out that the film is from the same producer as Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. When you’ve got to announce that you had the same source of financing of other films, it suggest that you just don’t have anything meaningful to say.
But where Neflix closes a door, The Lord opens a window.
Layer Cake is being removed from Netflix’s streaming at the end of February. I didn’t remember my own backstory but, poor marketing aside, the film is ranked very highly in Netflix’s DVD ratings. Those 4+ stars were enough to bump it to the top of the handful of films I’m about to lose at the end of the month.
The movie is made by the English and for the English. American viewers are likely to struggle with the accents and some of the cultural references. It is based on the novel of the same name (sometimes the book and the movie are stylized as L4YER CAKƐ), which I’d have to assume was also popular mostly in the U.K. (particularly before the movie came out). If you can get past this, or if instead you love all things English, you’ll find a fine movie. The title is, of course, a metaphor. In the dialog it refers directly to social hierarchy – the hierarchy of command and privilege in the underworld. Incidentally, it comments on the hierarchy of the privilege of the British class system. It also describes the convoluted plot of hidden motives and meanings. As always, it is best to go into this knowing nothing allows the surprise revelations to remain surprises. It is fortunate that the Netflix blurb was so inadequate.
As I said, this may be the film that made Daniel Craig’s career, but he is not the only one getting an early start. A handful of familiar faces in this movie were virtual unknowns until after Layer Cake was released. This is one of the first significant film roles for Sienna Miller, playing the mind-bogglingly beautiful corner of a love triangle. Although one of several projects she was working on, no doubt this was part of her rise to a brief flash of top-layer celebrity stardom. One also recognizes Tom Hardy in one of the major supporting roles, forgetting that in 2004 his would not have been a familiar face at all. While he did not jump out at me with his performance as did the first two, one assumes that this was an important step towards his current leading-man status.
*Quantum of Solace, on the other hand, I did not.