Just when it seemed the crime thriller had been wholly consumed by the Hollywood ethic of action over motivation, along comes this stylized rush from the U.K. that burns with the unsentimental intensity of a Jim Thompson novel and seethes with the effortless cool of a Mike Hodges film. Our Man (Steve McQueen ringer Daniel Craig) is on top of the world. His brief but very lucrative career as a cocaine dealer will come to a self-imposed end with the deposit of a hefty check of his illicit earnings, laundered clean and untraceable. He has kept out of trouble by adhering to "the rules," and rarely ever held a gun. But after a farewell lunch with kingpin Jimmy Price and a request Our Man can't refuse, it appears every rule must be broken as he sets off on a mission for revenge that becomes a shot at redemption. The twisted tale of how one man's life can be brought to the edge of collapse by machinations beyond his control has the heart of a great crime story, but cunningly avoids genre clichés. The sharp, nuanced script by J.J. Connolly (based on his own novel) offers twists at every turn and is emboldened by precisely framed cinematography and spot-on performances (including Michael Gambon and Colm Meaney). The world of deception that director Matthew Vaughn creates is so complete that even the title loses its playful innocence by the time we're let in on what it really means.
Matthew Vaughn began his career as a producer with 1996's The Innocent Sleep, a thriller starring Michael Gambon and Rupert Graves. He founded Ska Films with director Guy Ritchie in 1997 and the following year produced Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, one of the most successful British films of the 1990s. The diamond heist movie Snatch, with Brad Pitt, Benicio Del Toro, and Jason Statham, followed in 2000. In 2002 Vaughn produced Mean Machine, a remake of the 1974 Burt Reynolds comedy The Longest Yard, starring Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham. Swept Away, directed by Ritchie and starring Madonna and Adrianno Giannini, followed in 2003. Layer Cake marks Vaughn's directorial debut.