Friday, June 23, 2017

Movie Review: Baby Driver (2017)

Baby Driver (2017) - Written and Directed by Edgar Wright; Starring Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eisa Gonzalez, Jon Bernthal.

By Kenny Howell

Edgar Wright's movies have always had a musical quality to them.

He does pick great music, but it's not just that. Movies like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World's End and especially Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, have a beat to them. Baby Driver may be the beatiest of them all, and might be Wright's most complete work, despite all those great titles above.

That's because, at its core, Baby Driver is a musical. Nobody bursts into song or anything like that, though the main character Baby (Ansel Elgort) does lip sync and dance along with whatever he is listening to at the time. But the music is non stop because Baby listens to music non stop in headphones that are always in his ears. He says it keeps him moving because a car accident as a kid left him with a constant ringing in his ears and the music drowns it out.

It also seems keep his body and mind in sync when he is driving. He has an other worldly ability to weave in and out of traffic, which he does for a criminal boss named Doc played by Kevin Spacey (The Usual Suspects). Doc brings three criminals together in Atlanta to rob banks or other establishments and Baby gets them out after the job is done. He owes Doc something, which we don't know when the movie begins, we just know that he is almost all paid up. Just two more jobs and he is done.

However, the last job he gets teamed up with a self-proclaimed crazy man named Bats played by Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained). Foxx is a loose cannon, and their job goes awry because of him and gets in Baby's head when a man is killed in the process. It breaks something in him, and he can no longer keep his cool while driving. Plus, he has met a new girl, a waitress at a diner named Debora (Lily James), that he has connected with more than anyone in his past. Then, even on top of that, even though Baby is all paid up, it doesn't mean Doc is done with him. And he isn't a man that takes no for an answer.

Baby Driver ticks from the opening scene, as we see Baby sitting in a car waiting for robbers played by Jon Hamm, Eisa Gonzalez and Jon Bernthal, and preparing himself while he rocks out to Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. From there, the characters in the film move with whatever is playing at the time, rather it be just the soundtrack or what is pumping through Baby's headphones. They snap their fingers at certain beats, seeming to move along with the music as if it is playing on a PA wherever they go. It's a weird type of choreography done through terrific editing (it has to be nominated for that at the end of the year), and I don't remember if I have seen it used this way before in something that isn't a traditional musical. It gives the movie a smooth flow, almost like it is one big song itself.

In addition to that, it is so thoroughly Wright's vision, at times very funny, great chase scenes, then weaving into some pretty hardcore violence that is reminiscent of those fun 1980 and early 1990 actioners I am sure Wright grew up on (and parodied in Hot Fuzz) that have gone by the wayside. It's an unique film, one of which you don't see very often, and is maybe Wright's best work to date.

Rating: ***1/2

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