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Film / Layer Cake

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"I hate guns. And violence. But, as some Roman general once said... if you want peace, prepare for war."

"You're born, you take shit. Get out in the world, you take more shit. Climb a little higher, you take less shit. Till one day you're up in the rarefied atmosphere and you've forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake, son."
Eddie Temple

Layer Cake is a 2004 British crime film directed by Matthew Vaughn, and based on the 2000 novel of the same name by J.J. Connolly, who also wrote the script.

A not-so-legal London businessman (Daniel Craig), planning for an early retirement, gets in slightly over his head during one final drug deal. Things quickly escalate, until our protagonist gets double-crossed, loses control and, as they say across the pond, everything goes tits up.

Layer Cake is a clever, character-driven take on the classic gangster flick, rounded out by a brief romance, black comedy, genuinely unexpected twists, and an overload of Britishisms. The star-studded cast features a plethora of British celebs, some of whom were already famous before this flick, and some having struck fame worldwide after the film, particularly our protagonist.

This film provides examples of:

  • 419 Scam: Jimmy Price lost his fortune in a far more elaborate version: a Foreign Minister from some unnamed African country came to the UK shopping for investors, boasting of the country's vast mineral reserves and promising huge returns. He didn't mention that the country's communist insurgents were poised to overthrow the current regime, so he just stashed all his gains in his Swiss Bank Account and broke off all contact with his investors.
  • Accent Relapse: Cody and Tiptoes, who are introduced as toffs, are just using silly accents on some impressionable female tourists. They revert to their London accents soon after.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The film definitely comes across as a distillation of the novel, being much more tightly plotted, and notably, when the author of the novel, J.J. Connoley, attempted writing a screen play, it was several hundred pages long, and thus he wisely left this task to Mathew Vaughn.
  • Ambiguous Ending: Did XXXX die at the end or not?
  • Anyone Can Die: XXXX takes a bullet at the end of the film, seemingly dying.
  • Apologetic Attacker: A distressed Sidney apologizes after he guns down XXXX.
  • Artistic License – Economics: Negotiations between XXXX and The Duke over the pills break down when Duke's crew insists on being paid £5 million since they have a million pills with a street price of £5 each. XXXX tries to explain the difference between retail and wholesale, that the work involved in moving such a large quantity means they have to be sold at a discount for the buyer to make a profit, but Duke doesn't understand and thinks XXXX is trying to rip him off.
  • Artistic Licence – Law: Gene tells XXXX that the latter is in legal complicity with Morty for being present at the beating of Freddie by Morty under "joint venture". In English law, Gene is referring to "joint enterprise". But XXXX would be exempt as he did not go to the cafe with the intention of potentially committing a crime and XXXX did not aid or encourage Morty - it was sheer luck that the object of Morty's rage entered the cafe at the time and that Morty departed from the common purpose (him and XXXX going to the cafe just for a quiet chat). However, there is still a good chance that XXXX would indeed have to testify about what happened.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Marcel Iureș plays a Serbian drug dealer (Slavo), yet, being a Romanian actor, he speaks Romanian with his crew.
  • Asshole Victim: No-one mourns the Duke and Slasher after they get shot by Gene's bruiser, as those two petty, idiotic and showoff gangsters have caused the whole mess with the Serbian gang to begin with and are more liability alive than dead.
  • Bait-and-Switch: There's a variation on the Mirror Scare where XXXX, in the middle of an angst-riddled drug- and whisky-fuelled freak out, opens the mirrored bathroom cabinet, music builds and then as he closes it the action suddenly cuts to the next morning, with the character neatly dressed and his problems resolved. It's a very powerful cut, subverting expectations at a moment of high drama.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: When Mr Lucky aims at a target who appears to be Dragan, a shot is fired and we see a Gory Discretion Shot of blood splattered on some leafs. We assume the target was hit, but the next camera shot reveals that it was Mr Lucky who got hit by another sniper.
  • Balkan Bastard: The Serbian gangsters are the most dangerous criminals in the film, certainly more so than the stupid Cockney gangsters who made the mistake of robbing them.
  • Batman Gambit: Eddie banks on Mr. X's success of getting the pills off the Serbians so the two can make a drug deal for themselves. X delivers, but Eddie holds his folks under gunpoint and withholds any payment for him. It turns out that X already foresees this and ambushes Eddie's transporters.
  • Berserk Button: If you've just run into the guy who your incompetence landed in jail for ten years, it's probably best not to ask for money as soon as you've said hello.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Serbian drug trafficker, Eddie Temple, and Jimmy Price. All three are leaders of prominent criminal organizations, with various motivations for inciting the plot. Eddie Temple is the most benevolent one, and X comes to work for him.
  • Binocular Shot: Used for when XXXX and Mr. Lucky are scoping out the area for the Overt Rendezvous with Dragan.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The protagonists are robbers and murders dealing with other robbers and murderers.
  • Black Bra and Panties: Tammy puts those on for XXXX.
  • Black Comedy Burst: At heart it's a brutal film about the perils of the drug trade, but there's an awful lot of Gallows Humour about too.
  • Bookcase Passage: XXXX enters Eddie Temple's vast library through a door that looks like a bookcase.
  • Bookends: The film starts with an armed robbery of a payroll van in the 60's, and ends with an armed robbery of a drug shipment.
    Trevor: "Just like the old days, Shanks. A nice bit of armed robbery."
  • Boom, Headshot!: Slasher gets a bullet in her head by Gene's bruiser for mouthing off about the police, soon followed by the Duke getting shots in his chest for good measure.
  • Brains and Brawn: Most noticeably with Gene and his bruiser, but obvious throughout most of the gangster circles.
    The Duke (to XXXX): You wouldn't be so fuckin' flash if you didn't have him [Gene] behind you!"
    Gene: Yeah, well he fuckin' has, hasn't he?
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: A particularly twisted example. At the end of the movie, X turns around and tells the audience, "My name? If you knew that, you'd be as clever as me." Because he turns around, he can't see that Sidney is coming to him with a gun.
  • British Stuffiness: Eddie Temple complaining about the missing work ethics of British criminals.
    Eddie: England! Typical. Even drug dealers don't work weekends.
  • Broken Pedestal: The narrator, Gene, and Morty view Jimmy with deep respect and loyalty right up until they hear the tape where Jimmy sells information about their friends to the police for money. He also offends Morty with a racist slur, mocks Gene as Dumb Muscle, and expresses contempt for the narrator while trying to get him arrested.
    [Gene's] listening to the geezer he was devoted to for twenty years selling information Gene's told him in confidence to the police and not only that, belittling him, talking about him like he's a fuckin dog.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The gun Gene gives the narrator is a literal example. The narrator uses it to kill Jimmy, assuming that it will be untraceable. It turns out that Gene used the gun to kill a briefly mentioned Posthumous Character. When the police reveal that the same gun was used in both murders, Gene realizes that the narrator killed Jimmy.
    • In the book, a bunch of rejected sex toys for Mortimer's money-laundering porn shop become unexpectedly important when the gang accidentally takes the boxes containing those sex toys to their drug deal with Eddie while leaving behind the boxes with the drugs. This allows them to recoup their losses when Eddie steals the boxes they brought to him at gunpoint. This is averted in the movie, where the gang knows that Eddie will double-cross them from the start, bring the right boxes, and then have the Liverpool gang ambush Eddie's men as they take the drugs away.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Sidney, who shoots XXXX at the very end, perhaps fatally.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The film contains 210 F-bombs, which averages out to one every 30 seconds.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: In the book only.
  • Cold Sniper: Mr. Lucky gets ready to shoot the Serbian as he arrives to the Overt Rendezvous. However, it turns out Dragan had arrived even earlier and scoped the place out, allowing him to snipe Mr. Lucky instead.
  • Companion Cube: Gene and his guns, especially his silenced pistol.
    Morty: I hope you don't tell the other guns you have a favourite!
  • The Con: The climax of the movie. XXXX has to retrieve drugs from a rogue gang branch, placate the Serbian gang, and deliver the drugs to Eddie.
  • Cool Guns: Amongst many others, Gene keeps a P08/Luger and a Thompson submachine gun in his cabinet.
  • Council Estate: The grim location of Kinky's crack den.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of the film's post-Casino Royale (2006) DVD release shows Craig in a James Bond-style pose. In the film, he does that in only one scene as a joke.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Sidney.
  • Creepy Monotone: Dragan manages to be utterly terrifying without ever raising his voice.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Having your chest ironed.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Morty against Freddie, for managing Morty 10 years inside and then asking for handouts for the first time they meet afterward, and later Gene against XXXX, for killing Jimmy Price. See Extreme Mêlée Revenge below.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Deconstructed and then reconstructed by the end. At first XXXX proclaims his job to be an excellent method of employment with good retirement options. When he finally does end up facing the rest of the criminal underworld, however, they're all either idiots or terrifying cold-hearted thugs and all with their own flaws and quirks. XXXX also finds out how much killing someone affects your conscience and peace of mind. In the end, however, the trope is at least partially reconstructed by Eddie Temple with an incredibly cool speech about the nature of the criminal game.
    You're born, you take shit. You get out in the world, you take more shit. You climb a little higher, you take less shit. Till one day you're up in the rarefied atmosphere and you've forgotten what shit even looks like. Welcome to the layer cake, son.
  • Deadly Closing Credits: At the end of the movie, just as everything is looking up for XXXX, he steps outside, there is a gunshot from nowhere, and he falls. The closing credits roll.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • While surviving and leaving England in the book, the protagonist is implied to die in the movie.
    • In the book, Mr. Lucky the sniper isn't shot by the Serbians sniper. Instead, he accidentally shoots an Innocent Bystander and his target escapes.
    • The ambush that kills Eddie's bodyguard Mr. Troop is original to the film.
  • Decapitation Presentation: XXXX hands the Duke's severed head to the Serbs in an ice box, so they can get their satisfaction.
  • Defensive Failure: Subverted. When XXXX is about to blow Jimmy's brains out from close range, he hesitates and it looks like he cannot bring himself to pull the trigger, but after a few seconds he pulls himself together and Boom, Headshot!.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Crazy Larry, who only appears in a flashback set during The '70s, had a penchant for raping and murdering other men. This directly led to his death, as Gene killed him on Jimmy's orders, both men being too disgusted with Crazy Larry's behavior.
    Crazy Larry: "Fucking females is for poofs."
  • Destroy the Evidence: XXXX burns the clothes he was wearing to assassinate Jimmy, but forgot to retrieve the cartridge case.
  • Diabolical Mastermind: Eddie Temple; also, probably whoever the head of the Serbians is, given that Dragan is at a near Keyser Soze level of scary, and he's a subordinate of someone who might not even be the main guy.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: The end of the movie: after winning at everything, he walks out of the club, prepared to ride off into the sunset with the girl, and is instantly shot to death by a minor character with no previously shown violent tendencies. And apparently, the test audiences wanted it that way.
  • Diegetic Switch: Used with the infamous "Ordinary World" scene; the Duran Duran track can be heard faintly in the background before Morty gets his money out.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: XXXX states this outright. In the novel, Cody also has this attitude, which makes sense, since he's a con man.
  • Don't Call Me "Sir": Played straight when Jimmy Price offers XXXX to call him by his first name instead of "Mr. Price". He revokes his offer later when things don't go as planned.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Male on Male: Averted; it's treated as horrifying. Crazy Larry's treatment of men led to at least one man committing suicide and to being killed by Gene, himself possibly a victim of Larry.
  • The Dragon:
    • The Serbian drug trafficker has one who's actually named Dragan. He's such a tough dragon that he never comes close to getting defeated.
    • Mr. Troop, ex-soldier and Eddie Temple's right-hand man for dirty work.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Used very sparingly for a film based entirely around the drug business; the worst we see is stupid coked-up gangsters and the death of Kinky from an overdose in his crackhouse. And it turns out Kinky was deliberately spiked by Eddie Temple's "fixers".
  • Drowning My Sorrows: XXXX blitzes on pills and whisky after killing Jimmy. Followed by a Drunken Montage.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Morty is quite ticked off with Freddie. Gene also begins to deliver one to XXXX when he finds out he killed Jimmy Price.
  • The Faceless: Dragan, until the very end of the film.
  • Fade to White: The last scene of XXXX on the stairs fades out to white.
  • False Flag Operation: X fakes a police raid to extract the ecstasies from splinter gang, as well as to trick Dragan into conceding his people's stolen pills for good. He knows that the Serbians are satisfied enough with the death of those who steal their drugs.
  • Fat and Skinny: Liverpudlians Trevor and Shanks. Trevor is a big, laid-back black guy and Shanks is white, skinny and highly twitchy.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Several of the gangster characters, particularly Morty and Gene, Eddie Temple, and XXXX himself.
  • Filth: A bunch of wannabe gangsters from The Duke's gang are shown watching a porn film while guarding a batch of stolen ecstacy pills in a warehouse.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: The rest of the Liverpool gang say that they never really liked Mr. Lucky, their sniper, when XXXX apologizes for how Lucky died while helping him.
  • Gangsta Style: Done by the Duke's gang. Probably an instance where the people doing this were supposed to look stupid.
  • Gayngster: Crazy Larry, who was also a Depraved Homosexual, who raped straight men and strangled the odd rent-boy. Gene killed him with the rare gun mentioned below, as a sort of Mercy Kill because Larry was over the edge.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: Jimmy's plan to steal a huge batch of ecstasy from beneath the noses of a crime ring.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Blood splattered on some leaves indicating the headshot received by Mr. Lucky.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Freddie takes a ketchup bottle to the face.
  • Gun Stripping: Gene does this when showing X his collection of guns. X remarks that he bets Gene could do this blindfolded, and Gene replies that he has done so. It helps him with meditating.
  • Headphones Equal Isolation: The Scouse gangsters have a hitman on staff who unnervingly is always wearing headphones; turns out he's learning French for a class and is hilariously bad at it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Gene after hearing Eddie's tape.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Eddie Temple uses this scare tactic against XXXX. His henchmen kidnap XXXX from his apartment and then hang him from the roof of a high-rise building to soften him up. They don't want any information from XXXX in particular however, as Temple had already figured out everything.
  • Hollywood Silencer: A variation where a pillow is used to silence a headshot.
  • Impairment Shot: When Freddie Hurst is brutally battered by Morty, the camera takes Freddie's POV as he takes the beating and sinks down to the ground. Also the soundtrack fades in and out and dirt is left on the lens.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    Gene: Now, if Freddie dies, you're either in the dock with Morty, or you're in the witness box putting him away. Think about that.
    XXXX: *beat* You know, I will have one of those.
  • Ironic Echo: Early on at Stoke Park Club, Jimmy requests "A little privacy, please, Angelo." The line is echoed at the end by XXXX, the new boss in charge of the place.
  • Jerkass: Mr. X himself. But Crazy Larry takes the cake.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The Duke's girlfriend Slasher gets shot dead while ranting about going to the police in front of Gene.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: XXXX turns to the audience one last time in the finale to gloat about how clever he is, which leaves him open for Sidney to shoot him.
  • Lighter and Softer: The film mostly fits this compared to the novel, as in the novel, pretty much every gangster has a Hair-Trigger Temper and all are a lot more thuggish; likewise, the protagonist is a jerkass, only slightly more polished than his associates. However, the ending of the film is darker than that of the novel.
  • Living MacGuffin: Eddie Temple's daughter whom the protagonist is supposed to find but is never actually found by him nor appears on screen.
  • London Gangster: Hangs a major lampshade on most of the tropes; most of the characters are almost nothing like typical London Gangster stereotypes.
    XXXX: ...and avoid, like the fucking plague, loud, attention-seeking, wannabe gangsters, in it for the glory, to be a face, to be a name. They don't mean to fuck up. They just do. (Intercut with "The Duke" and his posse of half-wits swaggering through Amsterdam's Red Light District like they own the place, shortly before their fuck-up kicks off one of the many colliding plot threads.)
  • Loveable Rogue: The two con artists the protagonist occasionally hires.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: In the book, the narrator describes his assistant Clarkie as coming from "one of those fuckin huge families that you just don't get anymore, not since the arrival of the pill anyway."
  • Match Cut: Used several times within the film, most notably when zooming into and out of XXXX's eyes when he decides to kill Jimmy.
  • Mysterious Mercenary Pursuer: Dragan, the assassin hired by Serbian mobsters. Seen only briefly at the end, he tracks XXXX through almost the entire film and is always a step ahead.
  • Narrator: XXXX serves as this at the start of the film in order to provide some exposition about drugs and crime.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: Layer Cake being a reference to the various "layers" of the London criminal underworld, encompassing petty drug dealers, to thieves, up to Serbian War Criminals turned drug barons and powerful British crime lords. Reference is made to an attempt to "buy a country" via two of the bigger fish bankrolling an (ultimately botched) coup d'etat in an African nation, a detail that drives the story.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer: When XXXX asks Gene what he should be doing about the Serbs, Gene doesn't give a straight answer but leads XXXX to his gun cabinet.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Morty delivers one to his former accomplice Freddie whose incompetence resulted in his being imprisoned for a decade for a crime he didn't commit. It's filmed from the victim's point of view!
    • XXXX gets a brief but very efficient one from Gene before he has a chance to tell him that the reason he killed Jimmy was because Jimmy was a police informer who was planning on screwing them both over. For a little extra scary atmosphere, consider that the thing in the freezer that Gene was banging XXXX's face on was probably the Duke's frozen corpse.
  • No Name Given: "My name? If you knew that, you'd be as clever as me." He's referred to as XXXX in the credits.
  • Noble Top Enforcer: Jimmy is a Jerkass who is ratting out his friends to the police and is willing to set up XXXX to get involved with people who may kill him. His right-hand man Gene is polite, has a sense of integrity, only becomes dangerous toward XXX when he realizes XXXX killed Jimmy, and ultimately forgives him after receiving an explanation.
  • No-Tell Motel: XXXX and his associates rent a room to talk with the gang from Liverpool. They keep their conversation light and coded until Mr Lucky has scanned the room for bugs.
  • Not So Above It All: XXXX likes to consider himself "not a gangster, only a businessman whose commodity happens to be cocaine", but is increasingly drawn into the grittier side of his profession.
  • One Last Job: See Retirony.
  • One-Woman Wail: Heard twice.
    • When XXXX visits the office of his money launderer only to find the place stripped empty.
    • Again, during the ending montage after Eddie and his men leave the warehouse.
  • "Open!" Says Me: Morty uses his feet to open the door to Gene's room with the freezer.
  • Out-Gambitted: Jimmy tries to send XXXX after Eddy's daughter, while planning to sell him out to the police. Eddy catches wind of this, and simply reveals it to XXXX, who promptly murders Jimmy.
    Eddie: Little Jimmy was so stupid, he thought he couldn't lose either way.
  • Overt Rendezvous: XXXX wants to meet Dragan in a public place rather than at a hotel room. We later learn why.
  • Painful Adhesive Removal: XXXX is kidnapped by Eddie Temple's men and gagged with tape. As soon as one of them pulls the tape off, he lets out a pained and angry "FUCK!"
  • Pillow Pistol: XXXX is shown with a gun resting on his pillow during sleep.
  • Pillow Silencer: Gene reveals in a flashback that he assassinated Crazy Larry this way.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: During the taped conversation, Jimmy uses the word "dead darkies" when referring to Jamaicans. He also calls XXXX's accountant Mr. Singh a "rag-'ead".
  • Poor Communication Kills: Narrowly avoided. After XXXX kills Jimmy, Gene nearly beats him to death until Morty stops him long enough for XXXX to explain Jimmy was an informant. After being presented taped evidence by a bloodied XXXX, Gene sheepishly relents.
  • Pragmatic Villainy:
    • The Designated Antagonist's ideology makes the gangster protagonists look good by comparison. Also, in the book, one of the gangsters owns a sex shop and has a practice of telling someone asking for child porn to come back later that night, at which point they will be ambushed and beaten to a pulp.
    • After seeing their stolen ecstasy's holdout busted by the cops, the Serbs let X live. Granted, they don't know the bust was staged by X, but the idea is that they don't prolong bloodfeuds for a lost cause.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: “Let’s make it ten. Ten’s... a nice... round number.”
  • Pretty Little Headshots: The Duke's girlfriend receives an audience-friendly small entrance wound to her forehead. Applies also to both Jimmy and Mr. Lucky.
  • Product-Promotion Parade: A surreal fantasy version featuring a pharmacy/boutique full of FCUK-branded cocaine and ecstasy; the founder of French Connection was one of the films producers.
  • Professional Killer:
    • Inverted with the protagonist, in the film at least. XXXX hates guns and killing, and when he does assassinate Price it affects him so much afterwards that he can barely function for an indeterminately long montage of drinking, sedation, and hiding in his apartment watching TV and occasionally twitching.
    • Although played straight with Dragan and Gene.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: YES! FUCKING! PLEASE!
  • Racist Grandpa: Much of the outmoded language used by Jimmy and Gene makes them come across as this, although from their attitude it seems merely to be a verbal affectation of their age and upbringing. Early in the film, XXXX uses the word "expansive" at which point Jimmy asks him if he's a homosexual... XXXX smirks and answers in the negative;
    Jimmy: Nah, I didn't think you were. No 'arm in it I suppose... times change.
  • Ready for Lovemaking: Tammy has a Lingerie Scene where she gets ready for mating with XXXX by putting on sexy black underwear and stockings. Unfortunately, Eddie's henchmen have other plans for XXXX.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After XXXX and his crew finally deliver the ecstasy pills to Eddie Temple, all of them are rather surprised when the payment of three million pounds is replaced with membership to a very exclusive gentleman's club and enforced at gunpoint. Eddie explains himself very frankly to XXXX in his office, before turning the "Reason You Suck" Speech into a very memorable Welcome To The Business lecture:
    Eddie: You and Jimmy have caused my little angel Charlotte considerable anxiety: she's off to Arizona for a course of intense treatment. I'm keeping those pills for myself, by way of compensation. I think I'm entitled. Simple. End of. The amount of trouble you've caused the last few days... Jimmy. Poor little Jimmy. It would be in your interests if this thing finishes here, now, today. Understand?
    XXXX: It doesn't matter what I do; this lot are going to come after you.
    (Eddie turns on the intercom so the rest of the crew can hear what he says next)
    Eddie: No, they're too long in the tooth to go rampaging round the country looking for revenge. Look at them. Bunch of underendowed, aging fuck-pigs.
    XXXX: You're enjoying this, aren't you?
    Eddie: No. On the contrary; take it as a compliment...
  • Red Baron: Deconstructed. XXXX notes how much he loathes wannabe gangsters who try to make themselves renowned with badass nicknames such as "The Duke", basically placing a bullseye on their backs and drawing the attention of the authorities—not a good option for a criminal who is just in it for the profit.
  • Related in the Adaptation: Sidney is the Duke's nephew in the film but they're just old friends in the book.
  • Retirony: Not by enemy gangsters, but by the jealous ex-boyfriend.
  • Room Disservice: How the Magnificent Bastard gangster has the protagonist brought to him, preventing him from having sex with Sienna Miller.
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: The Serbians, who are more a force of nature than another one of the players in the London underworld. Their operation is also so vast that when one of their deals goes bad, their only real concern is killing everyone responsible rather than recovering their merchandise.
  • Scary Black Man: Averted by the two main black characters, Morty and Trevor, who are very soft spoken and seem perpetually calm. Eventually played straight when the idiot who landed Morty in jail for ten years wanders into the café and asks him for money. Carnage ensues.
  • Schrödinger's Cast: In both the original novel and film, XXXX gets shot at the end of the work. In the former, he survives. In the latter, he is implied to die, but it's deliberately ambiguous. If the novel's sequel is ever filmed, then he'll obviously be alive in both works — but until then, the film version is left unclear.
  • Scope Snipe: Used against Mr. Lucky. Triggers an Oh, Crap! from XXXX.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: The Serbians are are an evil version of this. While a fortune in drugs was stolen from them, it turns out that this is just a pittance and they are content with the deaths of those who stole from them.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here:
    XXXX: What the fuck?!
    Morty: Sorry about that... I won't be around for a while.
    • The members of Duke's remaining gang drop their weapons and make a run for the backdoor when the Police storm the warehouse.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: XXXX sure looks good in a nice suit.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Eddie Temple has the protagonist kidnapped, their conversation is filmed overlooking construction in the Docklands area of London. This is a reference to The Long Good Friday, in which London Gangster Harold Shand wanted to develop that area as part of his efforts to become a respectable businessman. Thus, Eddie has succeeded where Harold failed.
    • When XXXX is taking medicine with booze a close up shot of his eye is shown, with his pupil widening. This same shot is shown multiple time in Requiem for a Dream, with the same sound effect.
  • Shower of Angst: XXXX takes one after he shoots Jimmy.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: The Duke. See Red Baron. Two other characters refer to him as a joker.
  • Smug Snake: Jimmy Price sees himself as a criminal mastermind, but he's actually an informant for the police who's only managed to stay out of handcuffs by selling out his associates, and is also setting up XXXX to either kidnap Eddie Temple's daughter or get killed in the process. He's also prone to paranoia and temper tantrums when things stop going his way.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: The use of Duran Duran during this particular scene.
  • Spanner in the Works: The tiniest loose ends can get you in the end.
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Terry dies in a random act of violence in the book's epilogue, but the film omits that, along with the rest of the epilogue.
    • Dragan's book counterpart, Klaus, is killed offscreen by Gene's men, but he lives to return to Serbia in the film.
    • Freddie eventually dies from the effects of the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, in the book but seemingly survives in the film.
  • Stocking Filler: When getting Ready for Lovemaking, Tammy slips off her normal underwear in the bathroom and changes into black stockings and suspenders.
  • Stupid Crooks: The Duke and his "gang". They seem to think they're some sort of genius criminal operation, when in fact they're just a bunch of loudmouthed wannabe gangsters. They can't figure out the goddamn directions on a road map, they rip off the sort of people (Serbian war criminals turned regular criminals) who will gladly have them decapitated, their heist is amateurish as all hell (including showing their faces and the girl in the gang accidentally discharging her weapon that kills a random Dutch flower warehouse worker), and most of them end up dead by pissing off their business partners as well.
  • Suddenly Shouting: The head of the Serbian gang after the Duke steals some of his merchandise:
"Dragan? They fucked us. Find who's responsible and bring me his head. HIS HEAD!"
  • Suicide, Not Murder: In the Back Story, Kilburn Jerry, a member of Mortimer's gang, committed suicide at a party (due to drug-induced delirium in the book and from the trauma of being raped by their leader, Crazy Larry, in the film). The rest of the gang panicked, feeling certain that the cops wouldn't believe the story of Jerry's suicide and would think that everyone at the party conspired to kill him. So they sent Morty to dispose of the body, and he was caught in the act. Ironically, the cops did accept the story behind Jerry's suicide, but Morty still went to prison for several years for unlawful disposal of a body.
  • Tantrum Throwing: In the book, Trevor spends a minute screaming obscenities and smashing furniture after hearing that the police seized three tons of marijuana that he'd bought.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: The Serbian war criminals (Neo-Nazis in the book) who have largely given up their ideological interests to be brutal and successful professional criminals. Also an example of Western Terrorists.
  • Those Two Guys: The co-leaders of the Liverpool gang are fairly chatty characters who are constantly in each other's company.
  • Title Drop:
    Eddie Temple: "Welcome to the layer cake."
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Duke and his followers are stupid, loudmouthed, wannabe gangsters who have the bright idea to steal millions in drugs from Serbian war criminals, who then send their best contract killer after him. Discussed by XXXX, who notes that his kind don't mean to fuck up, they just do.
  • Took a Level in Badass: XXXX spends much of the film thinking he's in control and on the top of his game... only to be played by someone else further up the chain. After he kills Jimmy he becomes a lot more ruthless and thorough.
  • TV Telephone Etiquette: XXXX remarks "That's rude, Mr. Dragan", after Dragan hangs up without saying goodbye.
  • Unwitting Pawn: XXXX, for most of the film, is being manipulated by either Jimmy or Eddie.
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live:
    • XXXX is going to meet his girlfriend at a hotel rendezvous when he gets abducted by a Diabolical Mastermind gangster, and at the end of their "interview", he's casually dropped off at his home, which the other guy wouldn't know unless he'd been keeping close tabs on him.
    • Played for Laughs when XXXX is being threatened by a Serbian gangster; he acts intimidated and agrees to meet him where he lives, then asks "Do you know where that is?". When the Serbian says no, XXXX hangs up on him.
  • Villain Protagonist: Almost all the characters are drug dealers and gangsters, including X, the main character.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Eddie Temple (Eddie Ryder in the novel) is a celebrated member of high society who runs a vast criminal empire behind the scenes.
  • Villainy Discretion Shot: Justified; XXXX himself finds the "end users" of his business quite distasteful, and steers clear of any involvement with them, so no one is shown becoming addicted to or overdosing on his drugs.
  • Volatile Second Tier Position: As members of the upper echelons of Jimmy's organization, XXXX, Gene and Morty all find themselves under pressure to keep their boss happy - including indulging some of his stranger requests. It turns out XXXX is due to be sold to the cops, assuming Jimmy's plan to use him as a scapegoat in the kidnapping of Charlotte Temple doesn't end up getting him killed first; as Mr Troop's audio recording reveals, Jimmy is similarly dismissive of Gene and Morty.
  • Wall of Weapons: Gene is a gun fanatic and has a cabinet with fancy guns on display.
  • Warrior Poet: Played partly for laughs with Gene and his habit of meditating with guns through Gun Stripping and the like, although his personality fits the trope, being generally a fairly mellow guy.
  • We Can Rule Together: In the end, Eddie offers this to XXXX when he sees his potential. The latter has different plans.
  • Wham Line: The narrator listens to a tape that initially seems to feature his boss Jimmy bribing a cop for information, then shows that Jimmy is selling information to the cop. The end of the tape even has him contemptuously attempt to sell out the narrator.
    Detective Inspector Albie Carter: [T]here's only so much in those informer funds.
  • Wham Shot: At the end, it's revealed that the ecstasy pills stolen by the Duke and his gang was only a fraction of the output produced by the Serbian operation, as their warehouse houses a full-scale industrial production room behind another door.
  • White Shirt of Death: Both the Duke and XXXX wear neat white outfits when they receive a gunshot to their chest.
  • Wicked Cultured: Eddie Temple, especially, who is an opera lover and has a vast library in his estate; his counterpart in the novel attends opera but doesn't seem to actually like it much, although he has an unusual interest in Buddhism due to a Granola Girl second wife
  • Witty Banter: Lampshaded when XXXX goes to negotiate with Eddie Temple about a buyer for the stolen ecstasy.
    Eddie: Hello, young man. Thank you for coming at such short notice. I hope you didn't feel too summoned? How are you?
    XXXX: I'm in the best of health, Mr. Temple. Thank you for asking. How are you keeping?
    Eddie: I'm very well.
    XXXX: How was the performance of Faust?
    Eddie: Complex. No wonder it took him sixty years to write it.
    XXXX: How's the family?
    Eddie: What the fuck is this? A vicar's tea party?
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The film was released as L4yer Cak3 in the United States, and the UK DVD release too.