There is more to Daniel Craig than just James Bond. One of his pre-Bond movies is the excellent Layer Cake and it is now available on Netflix.
Layer Cake is the double-cross-filled crime thriller that stars Daniel Craig as XXXX (pronounce that as you wish as Craig has no name in the movie), a London cocaine distributor who steers clear of violence and runs his business much like that of an honest businessman. While XXXX is successful at what he does, he is ready to move on from the business. But before he can do that, his presence is requested by his mob boss, Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham).
Seems Jimmy has two tasks he needs XXXX to complete before XXXX can go peacefully into retirement. One is to track down and find Charlie, the drug-addicted daughter of one of Jimmy’s associates. The second task is to watch over the purchase of one million ecstasy tablets from the Duke (Jamie Foreman). Here is where the double-crosses begin and trust us, they don’t let up.
Charlie, it turns out, has been kidnapped for reasons XXXX is unaware of. The one million ecstasy pills, also unbeknownst to XXXX, have actually been stolen by the Duke and his crew from Serbian war criminals. When XXXX meets with the Duke’s nephew Sidney to discuss these matters, XXXX finds himself immediately attracted to Sidney’s girlfriend Tammy. XXXX then finds out he is on the Serbians hit list as they have sent out an assassin to recover the pills and kill anyone involved.
XXXX can’t get over his attraction for Tammy though. She reciprocates and they arrange for a get-together. Instead, XXXX is kidnapped and brought to crime lord Eddie Temple. Eddie explains to XXXX that Charlie is his daughter, whom he has recovered, but it turns out Jimmy had her kidnapped and was holding her ransom. Then Eddie produces a recording of Jimmy, showing that he has been working with Scotland Yard the whole time with plans on betraying XXXX once the pills were recovered.
One after another, the double-crosses begin to pile up. Throughout it all, though, XXXX continues to have his sights set on retirement and Tammy. But more assassins, pills, money, and even a severed head all look to stand in the way of XXXX’s happily ever after. Plus, there is always a jilted lover or two who may have something to say as well.
Layer Cake is the first directorial effort by Matthew Vaughn, who cut his teeth on this movie, but is much better known for his writing and directing efforts on X-Men: First Class and the Kingsman movies – Kingsman: The Secret Service, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, and the upcoming prequel to those films, The King’s Man.
As far as directorial debuts go, Layer Cake is a tremendous effort. Vaughn’s pace works as he weaves in and out all the crosses and double-crosses while the story unfolds. He brings together a fully British cast which, in addition to Daniel Craig, also includes Colm Meaney, Michael Gambon, Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins, and Tom Hardy.
Layer Cake was written by J. J. Connolly, who based the script on his novel of the same name. The novel was Connolly’s debut novel. Since then, he has written a sequel to Layer Cake titled Viva La Madness, which brings back two characters from Layer Cake.
Layer Cake was a critical hit. Daniel Craig’s performance was noted as a high point of the film with Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle comparing Craig’s performance with the “cool-yet-humble vibe of [screen legend] Steve McQueen.” Audiences, those who saw the movie, also dug it.
Vaughn was given a modest $6.5 million to bring Connolly’s story to the big screen. He was also given a modest $11.9 million return at the box office.
Layer Cake, for Daniel Craig, was a pre-Bond affair. His career, at the time, seemed to be building toward that big moment when he finally accepted the role as the seventh actor to take on Ian Fleming’s creation. Craig understood the significance of the role, especially when the naming of him as Bond was met with a lot of pushback from fans. It wasn’t until Casino Royale debuted in 2006 that fans knew they truly had a great Bond in their midst.
Daniel Craig would follow up Casino Royale with three other Bond films – Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, and Spectre. Skyfall has the distinction of being the highest-grossing James Bond film in its lengthy history. Craig will next be seen in his final appearance as James Bond in the many-times-COVID-delayed film, No Time to Die, which carries a budget from anywhere between $250 million to over $300 million and is expected to hit theaters on October 8, 2021.
Next up for Daniel Craig, that is after No Time to Die, is his return as super sleuth Benoit Blanc from the surprise hit Knives Out. He will not only appear in Knives Out 2 but also in a third, Knives Out 3.
If you are looking for some pre-Bond Daniel Craig action, look no further than Layer Cake on Netflix.