Baby Driver (2017)
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Lily James
Directed by: Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)
Synopsis: Baby is a driver, a get-away driver to be exact, who is reluctantly employed by a crime boss to pay off his debts. All he needs is one last job to drive into the sunset with his new girlfriend.
What works: THE MUSIC! Easily the best soundtrack of eclectic genres and styles since Guardians of the Galaxy, which another reviewer, Movie Bob, has hilariously compared this film’s protagonist to Star-Lord in his review of the film. Great tunes all around and I’m actually listening to the soundtrack as I write this review. I actually didn’t know most of the songs in the film but any movie that is going to have a car action sequence to Queen’s Brighton Rock and a chase scene to Focus’ Hocus Pocus is already a winner in my book. But I should mention the best aspect to this soundtrack is almost every scene (maybe every scene but I wasn’t counting) is driven by a song predominantly played for that scene. Almost like a music video in a way. In every getaway or driving scene Baby actually syncs to the songs—one time he actually restarts the song because of the exact timing. This kinda rip-offs Hudson Hawk in away when Bruce Willis and Danny Aiello time their heists to show tunes—but they sing them not have an iPod—but same concept! Yeah, I’m going to bring up Hudson Hawk in this review, shut up!
The acting is good. Can’t go wrong with Spacey, Hamm, Foxx and Flea (Flea!) There’s even a phenomenal scene-stealing cameo by the inimitable Paul Williams! I’ve seen Lily James in that Disney live-action Cinderella a few years back and she’s just alright. Nothing against her but her accent bothered me a bit. And I never seen Ansel Elgort before but he was good as Baby. Although his character was very hard to pin down. At times he was ultra-cool and collected in the face of danger and extreme stress but he wasn’t a tough-guy per se. I wasn’t sure of his age through most of the film and he did come across as maybe someone with a slight mental disorder like perhaps Asperger’s Syndrome in the way he acted socially. A unique character to say the least but not that relatable. And with that jacket he wears throughout the film I kept seeing a young Harrison Ford and I kept saying he should be playing Han Solo in the spin-off film for next year. At least he can act. Anyway…
As I’ve said countless times, I am a film car chase enthusiast and for the most part this film delivers. However, if I were to be perfectly honest, I think they could’ve used more chase scenes. There’s maybe 2 getaway chase scenes in cars, another one mostly on foot and the finale basically has a car battle scene akin to a demolition derby scenario. All in all, not too shabby but I was hoping for more. However, the chase scenes are phenomenally staged and photographed and I look forward to checking them out again.
Edgar Wright is one of the more interesting writer/directors working today. To me, he’s essentially like John Landis in the way he effectively melds genres. Like An American Werewolf in London is, at its core, a horror movie, but I dare you to count how many laughs it gives you. Baby Driver is a crime/heist drama but there’s a lot of funny and cute moments like when the robbers are instructed to get Michael Myers Halloween masks for their heist but one of the guys accidentally gets Mike Myers Austin Powers masks. While the story to Baby Driver isn’t fresh or even that original—save for the wunderkind ace getaway driver who has tinnitus and who listens to music to drown out the constant humming in his ears concept—the film could’ve been very boring in the hands of a less visionary director.
What fails: Like I said, this was mostly an unoriginal heist car chase drama. Stripped of the cool chase scenes and the awesome soundtrack, this would be one boring flick. Fortunately, it was never boring but it also wasn’t really memorable either. I was thinking during watching the film that today’s movies don’t have much going for them in terms of memorable scenes, characters or dialogue. Maybe I’m being a grumpy old man here but when I think of the films from the 60s, 70s and 80s I can think of so many poignant and profound scenes that are and will be quoted, analyzed, and made into memes and jokes for another few hundred decades. Baby Driver doesn’t have that kind of stay power I’m afraid. It may be a fun and entertaining flick but it’s not going to be remembered as much as older, more influential movies. Again, this is only my opinion and I could be wrong after only seeing it once but I cannot think of any clever dialogue and the characters weren’t that interesting by themselves.
I do have some nitpicks about certain scenes but some would be going into spoiler territory so I’ll just say whatever decisions the filmmakers made, whether I agree with them or not, didn’t ruin the overall value of the movie. However, I did take offense to a kid who loves music so much that he thinks the 70s glam rock band T. Rex was called Trex. Seriously? And one plot point was hinged on the fact that Baby records snippets of conversations and then remixes the words into electronica pop songs. It was a very quirky hobby to begin with and the fact that it drove a particular scene was even weirder.
Overall: I had high hopes that this film would rev up my engines and it certainly got very close to being a bona fide modern classic. Well, for a modern movie anyway. It was far and wide a helluva lot better than the pretentious Drive with Ryan Gosling. Fun, exciting and brilliantly photographed Baby Driver is a gem so far for the summer season. I’m sure it looks 10x better on the big screen so if you had a modicum of interest in seeing Baby Driver, do yourself a favor and check it out while it’s still in theaters.
Score: 8 “Money Orders Are Your Big Score?” (out of 10)