Sunday, July 2, 2017

Baby Driver

Review by Bob Ignizio

While it's certainly a thrilling car chase/heist/action film, Edgar Wright's BABY DRIVER is also very much a musical. The actor's don't sing, nor do they dance. But every scene is tightly choreographed –  the movements of the actors, the camerawork, the editing – to perfectly match the beat of whatever song happens to be playing on the ipod of getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort). And there isn't a time that Baby doesn't have his ipod on, as he uses music to drown out the constant ringing in his ears, the lasting effect of a car accident when he was a child that also took the lives of his mother and father.

This being a movie, Baby is, of course, the best at what he does. The reason he does it is because he owes crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) for a past mistake. But Baby is only one job away from making good on his debt, and naively believes he'll be able to walk away. He even thinks he has a chance at romance with a diner waitress named Debora (Lily James). But as Bats (Jamie Foxx), one of the criminals Baby drives for, says, "The moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet."

As with any good musical, BABY DRIVER makes no attempt at realism. Writer/director Edgar Wright creates his own stylish and cool world carved out of pure cinema. The car chase scenes are as exhilarating as they are implausible, and in classic crime film fashion, the world the outlaws inhabit is sexy, violent, and fun. Until it isn't.

What gives BABY DRIVER a little more substance than, say, a FAST AND THE FURIOUS installment, is that it eventually gets around to showing us that its fantasy is a lie. And even if Baby is a bit naive and good at heart, there are still consequences to his actions. The message isn't laid on too heavy, but it's there. But honestly, for the most part this is just a fun action movie full of style and wit, and brought to life by a great cast that also includes Jon Hamm, Eiza González, Jon Bernthal, Flea, and a special guest appearance by Paul Williams (who, at the time of this writing, still isn't dead).

It's obvious BABY DRIVER was made by the same guy who made SHAUN OF THE DEAD and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD in almost every frame. Those previous films were very much collaborations, though. This time Wright has written the screenplay by himself, allowing him to make a film that is a more purely distilled version of his style. 

On the one hand that means less emphasis on dialogue and characterization, which might be a negative in some movies. Here, it works. Wright conveys everything we need to know simply and efficiently, and then gets down to the business of entertaining us. It may be heavy on the action and style, but in a way that doesn't feel mindless or heartless. 3 ½ out of 4 stars.

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