Directed by Edgar Wright
Starring: Ansel Egort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jaime Foxx and Lily James
“Baby Driver” is a fun, exciting, high speed, heist film that fits right in among the best films of the year. However, its big, little flaw is that it’s perhaps a tad bit underwhelming, even a little ordinary.
Now being only just a little average might be a badge of honor for other films but when its coming from a director like Edgar Wright, a little ordinary is very unusual.
(”Ordinary? That’s our specialty!”)
“Baby Driver” is definitely several bars above the average summer blockbuster (not that that bar is set particularly high of course) but when measured up to Wright’s previous work (be it fair or not) it doesn’t quite stand out.
In “Baby Driver” a young talented getaway driver, for a crime syndicate, named Baby plays an endless loop of classic and indie pop and rock music to heighten his focus during his driving. The music helps drown out a hum in his ears he sustained during an accident when he was younger that killed his beloved mother but it’s as much an elixir to his ailment as it is a joy to his world. Baby does his driving though to pay off his debt to criminal kingpin “Doc” and with a final heist job completed it seems as if his ledger is finally paid off…until it isn’t. Now Baby looks to find a way out of the criminal underworld permanently before he’s dragged in too deep and those he loves are put in danger.
When it comes to movie-going, I’ve always been someone who will go out of his way to see a movie based on who’s directing more so than any other quality.
Directors, and the various styles, tones and film-making techniques they use make the movie matter more to me than who’s acting in it or even what genre the film is (though plenty of great directors are of course attached to a single genre).
Whether it’s the Coen Brothers, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Christopher Nolan or Wes Anderson, whatever these guys crank out of Hollywood in the near future is a virtual lock for me to go see. Hell, I had no interest in what I originally perceived as a baffling, inexplicable sequel in “Bladerunner 2049” until I learned Denis Villeneuve, who directed my two favorite movies of the last two years (“Sicario” and “Arrival”) was directing, so it matters quite a bit to me who’s steering the ship when it comes to these movies.
Edgar Wright is one of those directors for me. From “Spaced” and The Cornetto Trilogy to “Scott Pilgrim vs the World,” Wright has one of my favorite directing styles in Hollywood, consistently schooling the US when it comes to directing great comedy by using jump and long cuts, stylized humor, dry wit and using pop culture references in an actually effective way and not tired and forced like some other movies I’ve seen this year.
A couple of the things that Wright has been quietly great at though in his tenure are action and the use of music. Its hard not to think of Wright’s films without thinking of “Shaun of the Dead’s” pool cue zombie fighting sequence set to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” or even more appropriately “Scott Pilgrim’s” base guitar battle with Ramona’s third evil ex.
In Wright’s “Baby Driver” there is a clear effort to take these two genres of action and music and shove them to the front of the line while the comedy for a change takes a back seat and the results are pretty good for the most part.
Wright’s love for music, heist films and bare knuckle, pedal to the metal action is very apparent here. As Baby thumbs through his playlist telling his waitress girlfriend about the music he listens to, setting his soundtrack throughout the day, you get the feeling that’s Wright talking to the audience directly here. In this way “Baby Driver” at times feels like Wright’s most personal film as he implores the viewers to set their life to their own soundtrack and kickass to it too.
The music plays in great synchronized harmony with the action in each scene playing both the appropriate and appropriately inappropriate tunes from sequence to sequence. Ansel Elgort’s Baby is our Maestro to this orchestra of greatest hits of rock, R&B and indie alternative in this movie and he conducts it well, starting and stopping only when he wants the scene too and Elgort keeps that tempo high for the audience to keep them engaged throughout.
(And little details like this to make a simple getaway scene just an ounce more amusing is the kind of shit I appreciate about Edgar Wright.)
Side characters provide more than just a base for the rhythm of the story though as Kevin Spacey’s “Doc” is delightfully wicked and Jaimie Foxx’s Bats is enjoyably unhinged and impulsive as the squad’s gunslinger. Jon Hamm also turns in a nice performance, rounding out the cast as “Buddy” who forms an sadistically endearing Bonnie and Clyde chemistry with his wife “Darling” played by Eiza Gonzalez.
(My thoughts each time I look at my playlist before entering the gym.)
Yes, this is an intensely enjoyable movie, and as far as summer films go its one of the better ones of 2017 but whether it’s fair or not to make this comparison its simply a little underwhelming when compared to Wright’s previous work and at times even a tad average.
“Baby Driver” has great chase scenes, car stunts and action sequences but nothing better than his previous movies. The film’s opening car chase sequence and on foot chase scene stand out quite a bit in this feature but the finale of “Hot Fuzz” has better usage of vehicular action, and even “The World’s End” has better on foot chase sequence with heightened tension. Granted this film is much more grounded in reality than Wright’s previous work so his trademark ridiculousness can’t get as over the top as it usually does but it’s just not as enjoyable here.
(”Scott Pilgrim vs the World” was definitely NOT grounded in reality either.)
Even the film’s use of music, which is central to the plot and style of the film, although enjoyable, is not as great as even “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” where music definitely makes a stronger appearance and blends itself in perfectly with the plot.
“Baby Driver” is just not Wright’s best use of action in his career and certainly not his best either in music or any combination there in. Hell, it’s not even the best usage of music and action in a film this year.
The plot, while enjoyable, is nothing new either even with its unique traits Call it a homage, if you like, and it certainly is, it’sstill the typical criminal with a heart of gold story, who’s not really a bad guy, who’s held in check by the actual bad guy/mobster dude and threatened by his goons, but finds his heart in a woman who he feels is worth finally busting out of the criminal life for.
“Baby Driver” is a film I certainly wouldn’t mind watching again but all-time greats like Wright’s previous films? It just isn’t quite there for me.
You can say its not fair to measure the quality of a film almost entirely based off a director’s previous work but if you went to your favorite restaurant a dozen times and suddenly on the last visit the food was a little more stale and over cooked than it should be, it would make you scrunch your eyebrows too.
But as mentioned, by that same token, measuring this film up to the rest of 2017’s movies, its still a damn good time at the theaters this year and a worthwhile escape from rest of Hollywood’s far more averagely produced action films.
(*Coughing intensifies louder*)
The action is solid, the acting is stellar and the music will definitely have you bobbing your head more than a few times throughout and it’ll be worth your price of admission by the time the credits roll.
“Baby Driver” may not quite measure up the same way other Edgar Wrights films have in the past for this super fan but it’s definitely not a waste of your time either.
Just consider dialing back your expectations a bit.
VERDICT: 4 out of 5
Looking forward to the inevitable folks who take my slightly less enthusiastic take on “Baby Driver” too seriously. I’ll be waiting, bitches!