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Aw, you give a fuckin' Aspirin an 'eadache, pal!
~ The Duke, being predictably stupid

The Duke (real name unknown) is a low-scale crime boss and drug dealer in the 2004 crime film Layer Cake. Though only a minor antagonist and an even less impressive gangster, the Duke nonetheless manages to kickstart the plot of the entire film via somehow obtaining a package of at least a million ecstasy pills, prompting a good deal of London's criminal underworld to take notice - including the film's main character (known only as XXXX), who is assigned to manage the sale and distribution of the pills. Unfortunately, it turns out that the Duke has ended up making a very powerful enemy along the way - making him a much greater danger to the main cast than previously expected.

The Duke is played by Jamie Foreman, who also portrayed Lennie Taylor in Gangster No 1, Derek Branning in EastEnders, and Bill Sikes in the 2005 film adaptation of Oliver Twist.

Personality

From the moment he is introduced, the Duke is quite clearly an example of XXXX's least favorite kind of a criminal: a loud, attention-seeking wannabe-gangster attempting to acquire fame and fortune as quickly and stupidly as possible. He dresses in flashy, expensive-looking clothes, drives a neon yellow land rover, talks at a volume commonly used for shouting by ordinary people, and can often be found arguing over just about everything, even if he's in a relatively good mood; for good measure, he's a cocaine addict, making his personality even more volatile. He doesn't appear concerned with police attention either, as is evidenced by his tantrum at the boathouse - another notable annoyance to XXXX, who remarks that "only very, very stupid people think the law is stupid."

As the film makes apparent, the Duke is indeed one of those very, very stupid people. On top of being an egotistical buffoon who thinks that he can casually bully his way up the criminal hierarchy with a single parcel of pills, it's soon revealed that the Duke actually stole the pills from a much more powerful gangster and doesn't seem concerned that this might result in reprisals - until it's too late, of course. He also seems to be under the impression that he would be able to sell an entire package of ecstasy without anyone having to find buyers, negotiate exact prices, or even divide up the parcel and sell them in a wide area to avoid police attention; and when an increasingly aggravated XXXX attempts to explain how simply pawning the entire load for five million pounds on the spot is essentially impossible, the Duke flies into a profanity-laden temper tantrum that ends up looking more comical than intimidating.

Worst of all, the Duke's ego also brings misfortune down on the heads of his business associates: Trevor and Shanks reveal that the Duke has been bragging extensively about his connections with XXXX and Morty, ensuring that the Serbians target them as well when the reprisals begin.

History

They Don't Mean To Fuck Up...

Alongside fellow antagonist Jimmy Price, the Duke helps kick off the action of the film: first introduced while XXXX narrates on the importance of avoiding wannabe gangsters "like the fucking plague," much of the film's opening montage is a contrast between him and the protagonist - most prominently, where XXXX is working to a plan of early retirement, the Duke is clearly trying to work his way into the business by any means necessary.

Having made contact with a group of Serbian gangsters in Amsterdam, the Duke has agreed to meet with them at a greenhouse just outside town, supposedly for the purposes of a drug deal; however, this is actually a ruse. In a rare display of competence, the Duke and his men are able to temporarily overpower the Serbians and rob them of drugs at gunpoint. As luck would have it, the greenhouse is actually the Serbians' drug factory, and a shipment of at least a million ecstasy pills has just been completed - ready to be stolen. Unfortunately, the competence of the raid is immediately undone when the Duke runs over to inspect the pills, leaving his girlfriend Slasher to oversee the captured Serbians; double unfortunately, Slasher is even more cocaine-addled than the Duke, and the Serbian crime lord is able to easily get under her skin. In the ensuing panic attack, Slasher accidentally ends up gunning down an innocent greenhouse worker, alerting the rest of the factory and forcing the Duke to flee with the crate.

Worst of all, it soon happens that the Serbians are ex-soldiers wanted by the United Nations for crimes against humanity committed during the Yugoslav Wars and known for responding to threats by having the offending party hunted down and decapitated as a matter of honor. As such, the Serbian boss soon contacts a professional assassin by the name of Dragan to eliminate the Duke and retrieve the stolen pills. For the time being, however, the Duke himself remains oblivious to the fact that his life is in danger, casually smuggling the cargo back to London via Paul the Boatman and arranging a transaction with Jimmy Price.

As such, once the opening credits are complete, Jimmy orders XXXX to preside over the sale; of course, XXXX and his associates are not happy to be dealing with a relic of "the dark ages," and Gene makes it abundantly clear that nobody on Jimmy's level would even speak to the Duke if it hadn't been for the sheer quantity of drugs he's managed to acquire. Over the course of their first meeting at Paul's boathouse, the Duke seems determined to make the negotiations as much of a hassle as possible, insisting that the pills have to be worth five million pounds on the basis of each pill costing five pounds average at local clubs, even resorting to throwing a temper tantrum when XXXX explains that it's never as simple as that. Frustrated with the wannabe-gangster's immaturity, XXXX leaves to have the samples examined, forcing the Duke to wait for the payoff.

...They Just Do

Eventually, the truth behind the source of the pills is uncovered, along with the danger attached to them. Worse still, XXXX quickly realizes that thanks to the Duke's grandiose claims throughout Amsterdam and London, everyone believes that the theft of the pills was committed on XXXX's orders. Furious, he and Morty return to Paul's boathouse, only to discover that the Duke and his men have fled the scene in terror; Paul himself has been tortured to death with a clothes iron.

Though XXXX's associates eventually discover the Duke's gang hiding out at a nearby warehouse, they find no sign of the man himself, and the gang have no idea of their leader's whereabouts. With the Duke's second-in-command threatening to dump the pills if their boss isn't found, XXXX's mission once again becomes a race against time to appease Dragan, find the Duke and keep all the other crime bosses involved in the equation satisfied. With the pills too heavily-guarded to be given to the assassin, this task at first appears impossible; however, following the disastrous sniping incident at the park, XXXX finally asks Gene if he knows anything of the Duke's current whereabouts.

As it turns out, the Duke and Slasher turned up on Gene's doorstep some time following their separation from the rest of the gang, deeply shaken by Paul's death: finally aware that his life was in danger, the Duke insisted on having the pills sold as quickly as possible so they could get out of the country. Unfortunately for him, however, Slasher went on a near-hysterical rant and threatened to go to the police; despite the Duke's insistence that she didn't mean a word of it, Gene's bodyguard decided that the two were simply more trouble than they were worth and shot both of them dead - Gene exasperatedly consenting. At present, the Duke's corpse is being stored in a freezer at Gene's workshop.

With this discovery, XXXX has the means of appeasing Dragan: after pretending to lose the pills in a police raid, he offers the assassin the next best thing he can offer - the original thief's severed head in an icebox. With honor satisfied, Dragan leaves, eventually presenting the Duke's head to his boss as a trophy.

Triva

  • Ironically, Jamie Foreman is actually the son of London gangster Freddie Foreman, a noted associate of the infamous Kray Twins.
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