Baby Driver (2017)

  • Time: 115 min
  • Genre: Action | Crime | Music
  • Director: Edgar Wright
  • Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James

Storyline:

Baby is a young and partially hearing impaired getaway driver who can make any wild move while in motion with the right track playing. It’s a critical talent he needs to survive his indentured servitude to the crime boss, Doc, who values his role in his meticulously planned robberies. However, just when Baby thinks he is finally free and clear to have his own life with his new girl friend, Deborah; Doc coerces him back for another job. Now saddled with a crew of thugs too violently unstable to keep to Doc’s plans, Baby finds himself and everything he cares for in terrible danger. To survive and escape the coming maelstrom, it will take all of Baby’s skill, wits and daring, but even on the best track, can he make it when life is forcing him to face the music?

3 reviews

  • Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is an exhilarating, ridiculously satisfying action musical fable that emphatically announces its intentions within its opening seconds. Taking its cues from Walter Hill’s The Driver, Jean-Jacques Beineix’s Diva, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, and Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse (in which he directed the fake trailer segment “Don’t”), Baby Driver moves to its own beat. Literally. Wright designs the entire film around its glorious soundtrack, nearly every cut, word and gesture slave to the rhythm.

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a driver, specifically the wheelman for criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey), to whom he has been working off a debt. They’re almost straight, Doc tells Baby, all he has to do is one more job. That’s good news for Baby’s deaf foster parent, Joseph (CJ Jones), who worries about what Baby does to earn the money he’s been stashing under the floorboards. Of course, “one more job” is practically a death knell in this type of film and the first discordant chords are sounded when Baby meets the latest crew that Doc has assembled for the job.

    Eddie No-Nose (Flea) and JD (Lanny Joon) seem harmless enough, but Bats (Jamie Foxx) gives off dangerous vibes. Bats is suspicious of Baby, who barely says a word and whose earbuds rarely leaves his ears (a car accident left him with chronic tinnitus, which he drowns out by listening to music) but who takes in every last detail. More portents surface minutes before the robbery – JD gets Mike Myers masks instead of Halloween’s Michael Myers, Baby has to re-cue the music track he selected – and all hell breaks loose. Security guards and even an ordinary citizen are hot on their trail, but Baby is a devil behind the wheel and they manage to escape, though Baby soon sees firsthand how truly ruthless Doc can be when it comes to dealing with those who mess up his plans.

    Baby may be straight with Doc, but it doesn’t mean that Doc is done with him. He wants Baby for another job and Baby better be in or Joseph might end up worse than deaf and Debora (Lily James), the waitress Baby is sweet on and who reminds him of his beloved mother, might not be so pretty anymore. The trigger-happy Bats is back for the latest heist, so are husband and wife team Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza González), who prove themselves a killer duo in the tradition of Bonnie and Clyde, Sailor and Lula, and Mickey and Mallory. Buddy, in particular, gives Bats a run in the psycho department and it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to learn that the majority of the glee in Hamm’s performance derives from shedding his suave Mad Men persona once and for all.

    If there’s a nit to pick in this tremendously energetic and good-natured film, it’s Elgort himself. It never bodes well when one can envision a handful of other actors in the role – Brad Pitt and Robert Downey Jr. at Elgort’s age would have been perfect. The trick with the character of Baby, especially in the first half, is that he’s not really so much a character as an image. He’s framed to be James Dean/Steve McQueen-cool as he displays his driving prowess, his gliding strut down the sidewalk evokes John Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever swagger, but Elgort simply does not have the magnetism to draw the eye and that lacking would be cruelly exposed if the film were stripped of its sound and its stylistic touches. Compare Elgort with Gosling in Drive; the former recedes into the surroundings whilst the latter remains front and center.

    That said, Elgort is more effective in the second half of the film when Baby’s romance with Debora deepens. Part of this is due to James, who has enough winsomeness for the both of them, but also because Elgort works comparatively better when bouncing off other actors. He’s genuinely great in the diner scene that culminates in a tense square-off with Foxx’s Bats, and ably conveys the essential goodness in a character constantly surrounded by the worst of the worst.

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  • What if 2011’s Drive was less dark, a little less cerebral, and contained a more stoic blueprint on what it’s like to function as a getaway wheel-man. Well the result would be Baby Driver, my latest review.

    Co-starring Oscar winners Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey, “Driver” involves a pretty boy named Miles (his nickname is “Baby” and he’s played by Ansel Elgort). Miles for reasons unknown, is a driver for hardened criminals who love taking down many robbery scores. When Miles was a kid, his parents died in a car accident. He survived said accident but was left with a condition called tinnitus (the hearing of sound with no external sound present). Now, he uses music to drown everything out as he barrels past cop cars like NASCAR’s Richard Petty on angel dust.

    Shot mostly on location in Atlanta, GA, “Driver” is obviously a car chase flick (duh). Steve McQueen’s Bullitt used San Francisco as its go- to locale whereas Baby Driver gives the ATL some real top billing. I suppose Elgort channels his inner McQueen because at times, he hardly has any lines. On the flip side, the late Steve McQueen was always known as “The King of Cool”. Ansel Elgort is better suited to be the dude you wanna play ping pong with. Not the same thing.

    Anyway, critics have been salivating over this “vehicle” since it premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival (in March of 2017). I wanted to be part of that group but in truth, I found “Driver” to be a bit overrated. Three to four automobile chases between moments of tedium. Underdeveloped characters using spit-fire dialogue as a vice. A required love story with cutesy overtones. A musical soundtrack that overwhelms every scene as if director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) is re-shooting Guardians of the Galaxy. Baby Driver has all this and unfortunately, it doesn’t feel very groundbreaking or memorable. The ending involving the obligatory one last job, is perfunctory, violent, and reads like a street sign signaling a screenwriter’s “No Outlet”. Heck, no one wants to see the protagonist go to jail for being at the wrong place at the wrong time (spoiler). What a downer.

    In jest, if you wanna see more visceral car chases, you could probably just watch one of the Fast & Furious movies or even catch the final sequence in 2014’s Nightcrawler (that’s not even an actual car chase film to begin with). And if you choose to view “Driver”, you’ll realize that Wright is fast-paced in his acumen but he’s no William Friedkin (just revert back to To Live and Die in L.A., enough said). Bottom line: Baby Driver might be the Rotten Tomatoes king of the moment (98% and pending). But for me, this whimsical fender bender with its cool hot rods, its queasy moving picture title, and its “La La” effervescence, doesn’t quite reach “2nd gear”. Rating: 2 stars.

    Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

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  • (RATING: ☆☆☆☆ out of 5 )

    GRADE: B

    THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.

    IN BRIEF: A fast and furious heist film with jaw-dropping car stunts that takes the moviegoer on a wild ride, as long as one can accepts its many leaps of logic.

    SYNOPSIS: After finding true love, a getaway driver wants to leave the world of crime.

    RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 53 mins.

    JIM’S REVIEW:  
    “ They call me Baby Driver / And once upon a pair of wheels / I hit the road and I’m gone / What’s my number? / I wonder how your engines feel.”
    Lyrics to Paul Simon’s song

    Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a loner who likes high speed action. He loves the fast and furious high octane lifestyle. Give him a car and he can move from zero to 120 like no one else can. Which makes him the perfect getaway driver and gives him a passport into the profitable world of crime.

    Injured in a car accident as a child that left him parentless and with a permanent case of tinnitus (a constant ringing in his ears), Baby drowns out the real world with classic rock music as his live soundtrack. This also helps him concentrate better on his unique driving skills. Of course, he eventually meets Debora (Lily James), a cute waitress who steals Baby’s heart while he steals other things.

    Now they say, crime doesn’t pay, although Baby is making a killing…that is until Baby wants out of the crime game. Doc, crime czar and all-around bad guy, played with over-the-top menace by Kevin Spacey, won’t hear it. Hence, the basic conflict.

    Edgar Wright wrote and directed this action heist thriller and he takes his simple (very simple) story, fills each frame with exciting stunt work, and creates memorable offbeat characters. Baby’s bank robbing cohorts are a colorful motley crew. They include Jamie Foxx (Jamie Foxx), Griff (Jon Bernthal), Eddie No-Nose (Flea), JD (Lanny Joon), and Buddy (Jon Hamm), and his darling, Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). All of the cast know that the story is preposterous but they play their roles with high energy, rapturous glee, and a knowing satirical wink to the audience. (Especially fine are Mr. Hamm and Ms. Gonzalez as a crazed modern day Bonnie and Clyde.) Yes, the plot is silly and devoid of any real depth or logic, especially as it accelerates to its tidy little upbeat ending, but it is lots of fun.

    Baby Driver is all action too, more like a demolition derby with multiple chase scenes than a serious movie about crime and punishment. It’s Reservoir Dogs with the sardonic humor and without the excessive bloodbath or wit. Call it Grand Theft with Auto, set to music. Skillful as it may be, the film still seems like an endless series of music videos looped together to form a movie. All the action moves with a strong syncopated beat, highly choreographed for our enjoyment. It’s full throttle escapism. The first movie musical about cars.

    Baby Driver presents a major case of style over substance and style mostly wins out. Kudos to the excellent taut editing by Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos and Bill Pope’s electric hued photography that gives the film its unique look. Mr. Wright stages and choreographs his action sequences with an edgy disregard for realism. He also keeps his characters from being lost in all the maelstrom of revved engines and motor mayhem by developing individuals with distinct personalities and lasting traits. (Loved the his and hers neck tattoos.)

    All remains suspenseful and riveting, that is, until the film takes a sharp detour in its third act, veering hopelessly into typical chase and crash mode. Some of its characters start to act out of character, acting more like mere plot devices set in motion to tidy up all the loose ends. In fact, the movie never explains how characters know the whereabouts of others in order to seek revenge and one character’s “change of heart” makes little sense and actually weakens the story-line. Too many leaps of logic.

    Still, fasten your safety belts and move over, Quentin! Edgar Wright’s well made film is for adrenaline junkies everywhere; serious filmgoers may enjoy it too, as long as they slip their minds into neutral. With a plot that defies logic and having enough potholes to do major damage to one’s faculties, Baby Driver is still a joyride.

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