Wednesday, 12 July 2017
FILM REVIEW: BABY DRIVER
In his fifth feature, and only his second for Hollywood, writer-director Edgar Wright attempts to re-imagine the 'car heist' genre by melding it with that of the musical (sort of).
And while by no means a car crash, the emphasis on automotive gymnastics and a pumping soundtrack in Baby Driver comes at the expense of human emotion. You might be awed by the technical display but you won't necessarily care for any of those people behind the wheel.
Principally that person is Baby (Ansel Elgort): a sunglasses-wearing, iPod-listening young man with very little to say but who sees and hears everything. He's the go-to getaway driver for crime boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), who likes to mix up his crews for each heist but keeps Baby as a constant. Baby's a good luck charm, he's also in debt to Doc.
But when we meet him he's almost paid up - the old 'one last job' chestnut; Baby can see his way out of the life he has fallen into, and with romance blossoming between he and sweet diner waitress, Debora (Lily Rose), the future's looking bright. Of course life has a way of rear-ending you, and just when Baby thinks he's out -- and he and Debora might take to the open road with their super cool mixes blasting on the stereo -- he's pulled back in: forced to drive one more job for Doc.
Riding shotgun are Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), a sexed-up Bonnie and Clyde, and Bats (Jamie Foxx), a menacing, paranoid thug whose name is obviously a contraction of Bat Shit (as in crazy). And like the best laid plans in any heist movie, it all falls apart in spectacular fashion.
Rev heads will find much to delight in here, with Wright and his stunt car team producing impressive feats of precision driving which, unlike those in the Fast and Furious franchise, obey the laws of physics and logic (for the most part). There's also an insistent jukebox soundtrack to get your foot tapping and head nodding, but whether that qualifies Baby Driver as a musical remains debatable (I say no.).
What there isn't in Baby Driver is a care factor. Not on the director's part -- Wright deftly deploys his usual flare for quick cuts and quick wits -- but on the part of the audience. As sweet as Baby and Debora's romance is, and as noble as Baby's intentions are (ensuring the safety of his deaf foster father, Joseph (CJ Jones); trying to cause as little harm to bystanders as possible), it's hard to feel any sense of urgency for their safety. Will they make it out alive? Who cares? I didn't.
Baby Driver will thrill in the moment but it's the soundtrack, and not the characters, that will linger.