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Second Chance Cinema

Our weekly rundown of great movies you might’ve missed. This week: Layer Cake, The Raid, and Screwed.


Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Layer Cake (2004)
No doubt more guys would have checked out this sophisticated British crime thriller if the title hadn’t made it seem like a Food Network special. A pre-Bond Daniel Craig plays a mobbed-up cocaine distributor who keeps a low profile, saving his pennies for an early retirement. But before he can get out, his boss (Kenneth Cranham) insists he carry out two final jobs: First, find the drug-addicted daughter of a crooked developer friend (Michael Gambon), and second, unload a shipment of a million hits of Ecstasy. Neither assignment is what it seems - the girl (a never-been-hotter Sienna Miller) doesn’t want to go home and the pills were stolen from an exceptionally nasty bunch of Serbian gangsters – and what follows are double and triple crosses, lots of twists, and a good measure of violence. The complex plot threatens to lose its grip at times, but never does. Craig, as always, is cool and understated - it’s impossible not to root for his character, even if he is a bad guy.


Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The Raid: Redemption (2011)
If you want to see last year’s best action movie, you’re going to have to read a few subtitles. Very few, actually, since this Indonesian film is long on martial arts battles and short on dialogue. It opens as a SWAT team approaches a 15-story apartment block in Jakarta on a mission to arrest its owner, Tama Riyada, a psychotic crime boss who lives on the top floor. Since every apartment is occupied by one of his minions, the cops have to fight their way upstairs, floor by floor (this might sound familiar if you saw the actually pretty good Dredd – the similar plots are purely coincidental, however, since both movies were in production around the same time). The cops start out with automatic weapons, but once the bullets run out, the combat is close quarters, using hands, feet, knives, machetes, chains, axes, light bulbs, chair legs, and a refrigerator. Each sequence is a bloody delight, especially those featuring Riyada’s pint-sized henchman, Mad Dog, played by real-life martial arts instructor Yayan Ruhian, who also choreographed all the fights. There’s not a lot of socially redeeming value here—the film’s US distributor added the word "Redemption" because the movie’s original title, The Raid, wasn’t available—but between this and Dredd, this one definitely has more guts. Literally.



Screwed (2011)
British combat soldier Sam Norwood (James D'Arcy) returns from Iraq and takes a job as a guard at a local prison, which he discovers is as brutal and corrupt as the place he just left. The prisoners run the place with the tacit permission of corrupt guards and a warden with too much sympathy for the criminals. Norwood tries to remain above it all, but his daily descent into hell begins to take a toll on his marriage and sanity. Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by former prison guard Ronnie Thompson, Screwed never pretends to have high-minded ideas about prison reform - it’s just dark and violent, and it hits hard.

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