Writer: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Lily James, Elza González, CJ Jones, Jon Bernthal
Running time: 113mins
What’s the story: In debt to a crime boss Doc (Spacey), white-hot wheelman Baby (Elgort) provides getaway services at high-stakes bank heists. In beautiful waitress Deborah (James) he sees a reason to get out for good…
What’s the verdict: Nothing like a run-in with Marvel to put a tiger in your tank. Two years after bailing on Ant-Man, Edgar Wright’s drives his new vehicle at high speed onto cinema screens.
All we can say is, the MCU’s loss is chase cinema’s gain. Baby Driver is a fifth gear joy ride of millennial cool and old-school car stunt acrobatics. Nicolas Wingding Refn’s Drive lifted liberally from Walter Hill’s 70s crime classic The Driver. The Driver’s tyre smoke can be smelt here, but is just one of many flavours whipped into this tasty film.
Taking a leaf out of mate Quentin Tarantino’s book, Wright joyrides through teen cinema and action flicks. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Wright’s own Scott Pilgrim share space with The Driver, Bullitt, The Blues Brothers, Vanishing Point, Reservoir Dogs, Death Proof, True Romance (we told you there was Quentin DNA here).
So, many a movie name-checked then. And, with Baby relieving childhood tinnitus with music permanently pumping into his lugholes, the film is cut to a killer soundtrack.
But, is there anything under the hood? Rather. Wright has created a criminal underworld as quirky as John Wick’s, populated with off-kilter bad guys played by a fun to watch cast.
Spacey is good as ever as the pragmatic boss forcing Baby to repay a longstanding debt. Jon Hamm and Elza González are enjoyably locked n’ loaded in larceny and lust as a thrill-seeking stick-up pair. And Jamie Foxx employs his soft-spoken menace to superb effect as Bats, a crazy gunman with a nasty habit of killing check-out clerks rather than paying the bill.
This grit keeps Baby Driver edgy and unexpected, counterbalancing the cutesy romance blossoming between Baby and Debora (Cinderella’s James). Debora may be Baby’s salvation, but early scenes of him courting her with iPod playlists run on fumes. Writer/director Wright seems to know he must the lay the groundwork but is more interested in darker twists on the road ahead.
Meaning this film suffers the same lack of heart true of every Wright joint to date. Yet, although it shares the same emotional depth as the Fast & Furious franchise, Baby Driver’s action dances off the screen. Wright employs shot composition, sound design, stunt choreography and performance to conduct a hi-octane ballet that fires the thrill receptors, the unfamiliar streets of Atlanta an attractive stage.
Stunt drivers take their cue from Fred Astaire as much as Smokey and the Bandit, and the joy comes from watching real deal action driving rather than ersatz CGI.
Holding all this together is Ansel Elgort as Baby. Having paid his dues in such teen fare as The Fault in our Stars and Divergent, he devours the opportunity to act beside Hollywood heavyweights. What genuine warmth there is comes courtesy of his scenes with deaf actor CJ Jones as Baby’s foster dad Joseph, their scenes signed and wittily subtitled.
Enjoyable and running on premium fuel, Baby Driver is cinematic verve at 100mph.
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