Director: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx
Screened at: AMC 19th Street, NYC, 6/21/17
Opens: June 28, 2017
“Baby Driver” is not only the best action-romance-drama-comedy of the year to date. It not only has the best soundtrack you will hear this year—and that’s not “to date” but all of 2017: it’s a wrap. And it’s probably the best film ever that focuses on a young man whose tinnitus is so painful to him that he must hear loud music in his earphones all the time. As in all the time: even when he’s assigned to be getaway driver for a group of tough hoodlums who rob banks and a post office. It features three car chases, not the stereotypical ones, but chases that can be called nothing less than phenomenal in execution and even believable, including one in which a bad guy is killed not because his car explodes, not only because he is dropped five stories onto a flaming, exploding wreck, but in a most ingenious way that is so cathartic to the audience that you can expect the lucky folks in their theater seats to applaud and cheer.
And this pic is right up writer-director Edgar Wright’s métier since Wright is celebrated for the trio “Hot Fuzz” (cop movie), “Shaun of the Dead” (one of the more popular zombie pictures), and “The World’s End” (five friends, twelve pubs, twelve pints, a few random shots).
As the title character, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the cool dude: shades, earphones, and a young man of few words. He is sometimes ribbed for his silence (“What are you, better than us?”) by the guys who go where the money is. Doc (Kevin Spacey wearing a stunning rug) forces Baby to be getaway driver because Baby owes him money. And Doc threatens to put Baby in a wheelchair if he demurs. Baby’s M.O. is to sit in the car with music blasting through the earphones, and step on the gas when robbers such as the hostile Bats (Jamie Foxx), the psychotic Buddy (Jon Hamm), and sultry Darling (Elza González) go tearing out with bags of dough.
Nevertheless the innocent-looking Baby, who got in bad with the stern Doc after stealing the older man’s Mercedes, is a fellow of good character—otherwise. He takes care of his aging foster father (CJ Jones) who uses a wheelchair, is deaf, and converses with Baby in sign language. When he steals a car, he throws the victim’s purse back to her and apologizes. Best of all, he meets Debora (Lily James) in a coffee shop that always seems to have no other customers, which allows Baby and Debora to get to know each other and, credibly enough, to be lovers. Or at least they may become lovers if Baby can finish that one last job. Trouble is–there is always one last job.
Baby sometimes has flashbacks to his childhood when he loses his parents are in a deadly car crash while for his part the accident causes him to develop a perpetual ringing in his ear that requires him to blast music and allows us in the audience to enjoy sounds from the likes of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms” plus the sounds of other artists like Queen and Lionel Ritchie. I had not seen Ansel Elgort before and know I will be seeing a lot of him based on this breakthrough performance. Expect to watch this 6’3” New Yorker as lead male in Sacha Gervasi’s “November Criminals” about a teen who takes on his own investigation of a crime in D.C.
At the time of this review, “Baby Driver” has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes out of 28 reviews. All I can say about that is “Duh.”
Rated R. 113 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Comments, readers? Agree? Disagree? Why?
Story – A-
Acting – A-
Technical – A
Overall – A-