When Layer Cake first hit the big screen in 2004, Matthew Vaughn and Daniel Craig were recognizable names in the industry, but hardly major players. At the time, the former was best known as a regular collaborator and producer of Guy Ritchie’s movies, while the latter was coming off the back of his two most high profile Hollywood roles yet in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Road to Perdition.
Vaughn’s directorial debut was very much cut from the Ritchie cloth in that it was a British crime caper packed with fast-talking criminals and splashy visuals, but Layer Cake painted itself as a much more serious beast than his friend’s more light-hearted romps that relied on blackly comic moments as much as the twisting narrative.
Craig stars as an unnamed drug dealer who plans to retire from the life, but he gets drawn into the fabled ‘one last job’ that involves the kidnapping of a gangster’s teenage daughter and a huge shipment of ecstasy coming in from a rival in the narcotics trade, leading to double and triple crosses at almost every turn.
The stacked supporting cast features Tom Hardy, Colm Meaney, Michael Gambon, Ben Wishaw, Sienna Miller, Sally Hawkins, Dexter Fletcher and more, but it’s definitely Craig’s movie. It was his magnetic performance as the mysterious protagonist that went a long way to helping him secure the role of James Bond, which he not so coincidentally landed less than a year after Layer Cake was released. Both the director and star have gone on to much bigger and better things in the seventeen years since, too, which means Netflix subscribers might be more inclined to check it out and see the film that marked their respective ascendance when it hits the platform on May 13th.