Layer Cake. (R) Matthew Vaughn's ambitious trip into the London drug underworld has plenty of dark threat and compelling visual style, but it's so tricked-up with double-crosses, hidden motives, vengeful secrets, and class-conscious social commentary that it bewilders more than it intrigues. Daniel Craig (The Jacket) stars as a nameless coke dealer who runs afoul of two mob bosses (Michael Gambon and Kenneth Cranham) while tracking down a drug-crazed young woman and trying to strike a deal with a hothead (Jamie Foreman) involving a million doses of Ecstasy. By the end, you may be exhausted by the effort of trying to unravel the thing, but you may also be taken by the power of its spell. This is a movie that compels you to watch. Vaughn (the producer of Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) obviously has talent as a director. From a novel by J.J. Connolly, who also wrote the confusing screenplay. (Bill Gallo)
The Longest Yard. (PG-13) Reviewed in this issue.
Madagascar. (PG) Reviewed in this issue.
Short Cut to Nirvana. (Not Rated) This documentary by Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day takes a look at the Kumbh Mela, considered the world's largest gathering of people (upwards of 70 million) and which has been occurring every 12 years since about 500 B.C. From a foreigner's point of view, the event looks like a massive carnival in which every vendor's tent is religiously oriented. There are certainly some freak-show attributes that ought to appeal to curious eyes, including people being buried alive and sitting on red-hot nails. Much of the spirituality expressed herein is similar, about the unity of all people, the exaltation of love, the condemnation of excessive riches, and the ways in which all religions are means to the same end. One might consider, however, that even a hardcore Christian or Muslim festival might look similarly loving if examined only on a superficial level. The filmmakers don't ask specific questions about the religious requirements of the various gurus that could have shed more light. (Luke Y. Thompson)