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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.58%
Worth A Look42.11%
Average: 15.79%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 10.53%

2 reviews, 7 user ratings

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Baby Driver
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Peter Sobczynski

"Ansel Elgort Pops His Clutch And Tells The World To Eat His Dust Brothers"
5 stars

On the surface, Edgar Wright’s “Baby Driver” may look like an over-the-top action spectacle and on that level, it succeeds mightily. For most movies these days, that would be enough but in this case, the film is only getting started. It also plays as a wry character comedy, a reasonably intense crime saga and a sweet-natured romance and works quite well in those regards as well. Best, and most surprisingly, of all, “Baby Driver” is also pretty much a full-scale musical and a spectacularly entertaining one at that. Granted, it may not be a musical in the most traditional sense of the word—the music comes entirely from the wall-to-wall soundtrack and the intricate choreography is done almost entirely by cars screaming down the street at excessive speeds—but when the end result is as effective and ridiculously entertaining as this, even the biggest of churls would be hard-pressed to fail to succumb to its charms.

Our hero is Baby (Ansel Elgort), a young man who has been an expert behind the wheel of a car since long before he was even old enough to get his license. Years earlier, his skills came to the attention of Atlanta crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) when he inadvertently stole and trashed a car filled with contraband. Recognizing Baby’s gearhead genius, Doc has allowed him to work off his debt by employing him as a getaway driver for the various heists that he puts together and when we see him in action during the chase sequence that kicks off the film, it is clear that Doc’s trust in the kid has been well-placed. Now that his debt is just about paid off, Baby is indicating that he is finally done with a life of crime but Doc isn’t so sure about that—he is so confident in Baby’s skills that he is the one constant in the otherwise rotating crews that he assembles and is not especially willing to part with his lucky charm. However, two developments further push Baby towards wanting to get out for good. On the last job of his servitude, one of the crew members is a loose cannon named Bats (Jamie Foxx) and while everyone manages to get away thanks to Baby’s skills, the job itself is a bit of a mess. On a happier note, Baby meets Debora (Lily James), a waitress at his favorite diner, and there is an instant attraction between the two—the kind that makes one immediately contemplate tossing everything else to the side before driving off into the sunset together.

Of course, the course of true love never runs smooth in films of this sort and before long, Doc has “convinced” Baby to drive for him for his next big score, this time with the promise of a big payoff for his efforts. The bad news is that while the ostensibly friendly and crazy-in-love duo of Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eliza Gonzalez) are other members of the crew, the final slot has been filled by the increasingly unhinged Bats, who gets the proceedings off to a bad start when an excursion to purchase weapons from a local gun runner (Paul Williams. . . yes, Paul Williams) quickly goes sideways thanks to his hair-trigger temper. To make matters worse, Bats becomes fixated on the notion that Baby is a rat and when he accidentally learns about Deborah and her importance in his life, her life is now put into danger as well. Baby now has to figure out a way to do the job and get out of town with Deborah without either of them getting hurt along the way and without giving too much away, I will simply note that this turns out to be infinitely easier said than done.

At this point, some of you may be wondering what I was talking about when I made reference earlier to the idea that “Baby Driver” was actually a secret musical at heart. As it turns out, he was in a car accident as a young boy that killed his parents and left him with a case of tinnitus in one ear that he drowns out with a constant barrage of music from his collection of jam-packed iPods that he listens to everywhere, including while doing his getaway driving. As a result, practically every moment of Baby’s life takes on the patina of a full-fledged and intricately choreographed production number ranging from the opening getaway chance set to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” to a simple walk down the block to pick up coffee that finds Baby joyously bopping to the sounds of the Bob & Earl R&B chestnut “Harlem Shuffle.” Music even plays an important part in the meeting of Baby and Deborah—she catches his ear by singing Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y” while working and they soon find themselves discussing songs with her name in the title—she offers up a Beck tune and he responds with one by T. Rex. As I said, the film is wall-to-wall music, combining classics like “Nowhere to Run” with choice deep cuts that have been so expertly curated that you will almost certainly find yourself downloading the soundtrack the moment that the end credits have finished rolling.

The music element is one that could have easily grown tiresome if handled incorrectly but writer-director Edgar Wright, whose credits include such cult favorites as the genre spoof trilogy “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End” and the musically inclined “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” handles it in just the right manner—he understands exactly how important popular culture such as pop music can be to someone who otherwise finds it difficult to articulate themselves to the world at large. Instead of picking songs that are simply popular, he has managed to find ones that genuinely speak for Baby, especially in regards to his blossoming relationship with Deborah, and the tunes almost serve as a commentary track to help us understand how he is feeling and what he is going through. At the same time, Wright has also picked tunes that go well with how he has envisioned his big action beats and the combination of the visuals and the music is so exquisitely put together that you get the same giddy rush at seeing the results of their union that you get watching Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire in the midst of a particularly exquisite bit of choreography.

This may make “Baby Driver” seem like a bizarre combination of the Walter Hill’s enigmatic car chase classic “The Driver” (Hill even makes a cleverly disguised cameo appearance) and the immortal musical/car-crash hybrid “The Blues Brothers” but it has a lot more going on for it than just that. Wright’s screenplay eschews its potentially one-joke premise with a strong and involving story, interesting characters across the board and dialogue that is really funny without being overly quippy. As a director, Wright has always proven himself to be a slick and flashy stylist but he does some pretty extraordinary work here—the set-pieces are as impressive as can be (with the last third or so of the film offering one breathless thrill after another) and the quieter, character-driven moments are equally as impressive. Elgort and James makes for a winning on-screen couple and they are ably assisted by a crackerjack team of supporting players clearly having a blast—Hamm and Spacey do some of the best screen work that they have done in a while and Jamie Foxx delivers one of the very best performances of his entire career as Bats, the kind of guy who is dangerous enough with a gun in his hand but who can cause even more damage just by talking once he figures out where his victim is most vulnerable. Most impressively, even though this seems like the kind of film that might run out of steam at a certain point once the initial rush fades away, Wright is always able to find a new twist or fillip to keep the proceedings from waning and even at nearly two hours long, it never wears out its welcome.

Every summer at the multiplex, there comes a point where viewers have grown weary of the usual array of sequels, remakes, ripoffs and filmed business deals and find themselves craving something off the beaten path. Usually this occurs around the beginning of August but this summer, with virtually every big ticket item outside of “Wonder Woman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” proving to be a disappointment with audiences, we have already pretty much hit that point. Clearly the distributors of “Baby Driver” must have recognized that was a possibility because they moved its release up from mid-August to now. Whether the gamble will pay off and the film becomes the hit that it deserves to be remains to be seen but those who do give it a chance should find it to be the kind of pure cinematic adrenaline that will leave them giddy, thoroughly entertained and determined to rush off and tell someone about what they have just seen with the same level of excitement that they felt when they were watching it for themselves.

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originally posted: 06/28/17 05:05:06
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2017 South by Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/28/21 morris campbell fast & fun great car stunts 4 stars
12/26/17 Langano Just okay, don't believe the hype. 3 stars
10/29/17 sevarian first rate action film!! Cool as they come! 4 stars
7/06/17 ActionMovieFan This movie really is atrocious trash of the lowest order. 1 stars
7/03/17 mr.mike Good action but the constant barrage of songs is annoying 3 stars
7/02/17 Louise Total horse-shit made by a British wanker, what do you expect ! ! !. 1 stars
6/29/17 Bob Dog Pretty good movie but never gets fully revved up. 3 stars
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  28-Jun-2017 (R)
  DVD: 10-Oct-2017

  28-Jun-2017 (15)

  13-Jul-2017 (MA)
  DVD: 10-Oct-2017

Directed by
  Edgar Wright

Written by
  Edgar Wright

  Ansel Elgort
  Lily James
  Kevin Spacey
  Jon Hamm
  Jamie Foxx
  Eiza Gonzalez
  Jon Bernthal

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