Baby Driver, the latest film from writer/director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) is a caper movie set to punchy music. The humor is subdued by comparison to the director’s previous works. He’s created something more dramatic, though it maintains a heavy style and a dependence on over-the-top characters. Like Pulp Fiction, this film makes nods to pop-culture, but the references are mostly musical. The eponymous Baby, as played by Ansel Elgort is a getaway driver who can’t perform without his earbuds. His tunes create a musical backdrop for the film. Ansel’s performance is relaxed and compelling. I wish he’d been given more chance to emote. Instead he’s often a passive participant despite his character’s gift behind the wheel. This forces the story to depend largely on its antagonists to drive the plot forward.
It’s slow on the straightways, fast on the curves.
Despite an energizing opening, the action drags in spots. There’s a quirky love interest for our lead and a subplot about a deaf man who needs tending. These scenes were the least gratifying. Baby doesn’t seem to want much and so the pace can wander. The momentum depends largely on his reactions to the other characters. This is so pronounced that the middle of the film almost ran out of gas. Eventually the obstacles return when Jamie Foxx shows up to insert some tension back into the film. He’s helped by Jon Hamm (who’s talent is wearing a suit) and the always engaging Kevin Spacey.
It devolves into 80’s action tropes.
The last third of the film maintains a dependence on rotating music tracks, but otherwise starts to lose its charm and take on the feel of an action genre film. The goals of the protagonist finally manifest. Ironically, I found Baby more interesting when we first met him, before he’d decided he wanted to take charge. The film was on point during the chases, but no entertainment bars were raised. Your mileage may vary. If you’re in your early 20’s there’s a good chance you’ll identify with the main character. He’s a mid-2000’s time capsule. Similarly, if you’re a music geek who likes car chases and cheesy crime films then this one’s for you.