<preform>Layer Cake (15)<br>Dead Man's Shoes (18)<br>Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (15)<br>The Life and Death of Peter Sellers (15)<br>De-lovely (15)<br>Saw (18)<br>Mambo Italiano (15)<br>Princesa (18)</preform>

You told us this wasn't another Lock, Stock rip-off, you slag!
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The Independent Culture

Matthew Vaughn was the producer of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, and his own directorial debut, Layer Cake (15), isn't a million miles away from it. Another London crime caper, it stars Daniel Craig as a reserved, sharp-suited drug dealer who thinks he can walk away from the business. His boss (Kenneth Cranham) thinks differently, of course, and Craig is soon tangled in a web of shootings, kidnappings, double crosses and scams, all perpetrated by dodgy geezers named Kinky, Eddie, Morty, Freddie, Jimmy, and, I shouldn't wonder, Dopey and Grumpy, too.

Matthew Vaughn was the producer of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, and his own directorial debut, Layer Cake (15), isn't a million miles away from it. Another London crime caper, it stars Daniel Craig as a reserved, sharp-suited drug dealer who thinks he can walk away from the business. His boss (Kenneth Cranham) thinks differently, of course, and Craig is soon tangled in a web of shootings, kidnappings, double crosses and scams, all perpetrated by dodgy geezers named Kinky, Eddie, Morty, Freddie, Jimmy, and, I shouldn't wonder, Dopey and Grumpy, too.

Layer Cake is a glossy, classy production that doesn't employ the hyperactive camerawork or farcical comedy that are Guy Ritchie's trademarks, presumably because it's meant to be a more mature and gritty film. But as the characters are just as caricatured and the plot just as tricksy as they are in Lock, Stock, what we're left with is hollow: a Guy Ritchie film without all the stuff that makes a Guy Ritchie film worth seeing.

After fumbling his shot at a star-studded crowd-pleaser, Shane Meadows gets back to his low-budget, semi-improvised roots with Dead Man's Shoes (18), which features no one starrier than Paddy Considine. He plays an ex-soldier who tramps back to his home village after seven years' absence. While he was away his educationally subnormal brother was picked on by a shower of small-time crooks, and now he wants retribution.

It's a riveting film. Considine is utterly magnetic as a quiet man who kills with no more fear or compunction than if he were mowing the lawn. What's particularly startling, though, is the way the vigilante violence has the same rural setting and the same comic tone as Meadows' other films. Bloodshed aside, the landscape of dry stone walls and verdant hills wouldn't look out of place on Last Of The Summer Wine, while the naturalistic, gormless banter could be in The Royle Family.

Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (15) documents the heavy metal gods' recording of their new album. It's not a straightforward process. The bassist resigns, the singer goes into rehab, and the whole band is in thrall to a US$40,000-a-month "therapist and performance coach". It's an oddly touching, tragi-comic portrait of a band that could solve all its problems if only it took itself less seriously. But when you've sold 90-million albums by taking yourself very seriously indeed, that's not an option.

Some Kind Of Monster would also work as a subtitle for The Life & Death of Peter Sellers (15), a biopic starring Geoffrey Rush. He's too old and too Australian for the part, but he does an astounding job of recreating all of Sellers' incarnations, and there's intelligent support from Charlize Theron as Britt Eckland, Emily Watson as Sellers' first wife, and Miriam Margolyes as the mother who drives him on. The film fizzes with the glamour of Sellers' life, but it's unflinchingly candid about how odious he could be, especially towards his children. The reason he was always playing different characters, it seems, is that he was nightmarish as himself.

Kevin Kline looks very pleased with himself as Cole Porter in this week's other showbiz biopic, De-Lovely (PG). A trudge through Porter's life story, De-Lovely has less sophistication and inspiration than one of the composer's semiquavers. Worse, it doesn't get you under his skin. All we learn about Porter is that he was always sitting at the piano, with short breaks to kiss a man, have a tiff with his wife (Ashley Judd), or watch a VH1-friendly pop star murder one of his lyrics.

In Saw (18), a cruel psychopath locks his victims in elaborate traps that force them to inflict gruesome injuries on themselves or others if they want to get out alive. Written by its young star, Leigh Wannell, Saw is a shrewd Seven knock-off, but it's so sickening that you'd have to be a cruel psychopath yourself to enjoy it. In Mambo Italiano (15), a Canadian man tells his Italian parents that he's gay. It's a sweet-natured but slight comedy that assumes, like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, that any ethnic family in a predominantly Wasp country must be infuriatingly traditional, but ultimately loveable. Princesa (18) is far less gripping than a film about a transsexual Brazilian streetwalker in Milan should be.

n.barber@independent.co.uk

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