In order to determine how ‘Layer Cake’ reaches the expectations of its audience, we must first determine who the audience are. There are many reasons why people watch a film, such as being told that it is a ‘must see’, watching a favourite actor, or reading a good review. However, due to their social characteristics people are generally attracted by a film’s genre.
Genre is a means of organising the production and marketing of a film (Cook & Bernink, 1999). It allows filmmakers to identify and fulfil ‘audience expectation’. Before any film is made, finance has to be raised; it is easier for a filmmaker to sell and/or justify the making of their film if they have established trends to prove the popularity of the kind of film they want to make .
Cook (1999) comments on the paradoxical nature of genre, “At first glance, genres seem to be very neat categories, separated into distinct groups. However, genres depend on their ability to change or adapt in order to survive.” Genres have emerged as a way of predicting and fulfilling audience expectation. The audience want some familiar conventions but with a new element or twist. So genres need to combine familiarity with innovation. If genres do not adapt over time, they will die out .
‘Layer Cake’ is a film about criminals in the British drug scene from a British director. The director in question, Matthew Vaughn, gained his notoriety by producing films for Guy Ritchie. Guy Ritchie was the original proponent of the ‘British gangster film’ sub-genre, and Vaughn directed both of his major works, ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’. Therefore, given Vaugn’s reputation and the marketing of the film, it will undoubtedly attract a sizeable ‘audience’ attracted to his self-popularised genre.
Although the comparisons are there for all to see, Vaughn is keen to distance himself from the gangster genre. This position resonates through his lead character (XXXX) in one of the very first scenes. “I’m not a gangster,” he tells us. “I’m a businessman whose commodity happens to be cocaine.” Conversely, many aspects of the film draw immediate comparison. Like Ritchie’s first two films, it is a crime-drama about inter-twined Londoner ‘gangs’ who “deal drugs” and carry “shooters”. To go even further, ‘Layer Cake’ even features ‘Lock, Stock’ alumnus Dexter Fletcher.
Questions may exist over whether ‘Layer Cake’ is a ‘British gangster film’ of the Ritchie mould. However, there is no doubt that it is a member of the crime genre. The plot seems in keeping with all of the precursors discussed by Dirks(2004). Dirks argues that, “Films within the crime genre often highlight the life of a crime figure”. It goes on to say that they generally, “glorify the rise and fall of a particular criminal(s), gang, bank robber, murderer or lawbreakers in personal power struggles or conflict with law and order figures, an underling or competitive colleague, or a rival gang”. The lead, XXXX is not immediately in a competitive position, although he is forced into killing his boss as the plot develops. The suspicious nature of an intra-business criminal relationship, means that he is unconsciously competing with his boss.
The role of the main character XXXX, is one of