I want to head to a movie theater, with concessions I can’t afford, and a ticket I don’t have. You in?
Baby Driver is director Edgar Wright’s (Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) fifth feature film, and it is a definite departure from his usual work. It’s an action musical that is as heavy on doing donuts in the parking lot as it is on dropping old school tunes any chance it gets. Imagine Drive and La La Land had a baby that grew up on rock n’ roll and crack. While it’s not quite as memorable as either of those two films, it’s still a lot of old school fun.
The plot centers around Baby (Ansel Elgort), a getaway driver working for criminals under the command of Doc (Kevin Spacey), a kind of mob boss who plans out all of the heists. Baby falls for a waitress at a local diner (Lily James), and soon realizes that getting out of the crime world isn’t going to be so easy. The story as a whole is pretty standard for the crime genre, full of the usual cliches associated with it, but it’s in the details where you find the real magic. The character quirks, the car chases through Atlanta, and the editing of every word, bullet, and car screech to the beat of the soundtrack is what lift the film up above the wreckage. A lot of effort went into the craftsmanship of what you see on screen, even if the story and some of its less interesting characters don’t quite live up to it.
The performances are all well done, and it is very much an ensemble movie where no one in the cast really outshines anyone else. Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey do have a tendency to dominate scenes, but that’s in line with the kind of characters they play, and man do I wish there was more Kevin Spacey. Baby is almost mute-like when it comes to dealing with people, but when he’s blasting his favorite song or he’s eluding cops on the streets, his character comes alive. Otherwise he’s a dull, stoic protagonist. Luckily the rest of the cast of misfits and criminals keeps the movie chugging along.
On a side note, I think Lily James is on her way to being a star soon, she’s fantastic.
Despite the premise of the film being about full throttle car chases to a mix-tape of songs, it does feel rather slow in the first half. It’s not as funny as you might expect from an Edgar Wright film, and the action is infrequent with each chase scene ending just when you think they’re beginning to ramp up. The second half of the film, while becoming more unrealistic as it goes on, is fast-paced, adrenaline fueled fun. The soundtrack is extensive, and likely to get you tapping your feet along to the beat. More often than not though you’ll be thinking, “I have no idea what this song is, but I am with it.”
But if there’s one thing I learned from this movie, it’s that Easy by The Commodores is a BANGER.
Overall Score: 4/5 Stars
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