Layer Cake isn’t anything more than genre pastiche, but damned if it isn’t stylish and raucously entertaining. We’ve seen this kind of twisty, darkly humorous plot before: a successful coke dealer decides to retire early and go straight, but only after he and his quirky pals make one last score. Natch, the plan goes wonky when two mil worth of E disappears, a leggy blonde wiggles her way into his life and a double-crossing boss orders him to find the junkie daughter of a gangland bigwig.
Cake could have crumbled under the weight of that conventional, over-complicated plot, predictable denouement and obvious attempts to fit in with its Brit-gangster forebears, like The Long Good Friday and Mona Lisa. But instead of feeling tired, Cake fits in nicely among them. Director Matthew Vaughn harnesses the original Get Carter’s menacing sneer, Goodfellas’ nerviness, a dash of Tarantino’s humor, and the style and urgency in the good parts of Michael Mann’s films. These decisions, along with a terrific, reliable cast, don’t revolutionize the genre, but they move Cake past its downfalls and give the movie an undeniable pulse — albeit a familiar one.
Opens May 18 at Film Forum