Take liberal doses of the Fast and Furious franchise and top it all off with any of the other high-speed car-chase bank heist films that you have seen, and, voilà, Baby Driver literally explodes onto the big screen. But, hold on, as will become apparent, this is not just your run-of-the-mill fast-car, high-adrenaline bank caper flick.
For starters, writer/director Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) introduces us to the instantly likeable title character Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) who is continually plugged into his iPod. When this phenomenal getaway driver was a small child, an automobile accident killed his parents and left him with some facial scars and chronic tinnitus (we hear it occasionally in the soundtrack) that only his private playlists can drown out. When not on the road, Baby takes random sounds and voices that he has recorded and mixes them into his extensive tape collection. He also displays some pretty fancy footwork as he wends his way through sidewalks, intersections and around pedestrians to pick up coffee for his fellow crooks.
Baby is paying back a bunch of money that he owes to bank robbery mastermind “Doc” (Kevin Spacey, House of Cards) and is Doc’s preferred wheelman for the Greater Atlanta area. During the first bank job that we see, Baby successfully eludes the entire Atlanta police force and brings back “Buddy” (John Hamm, Mad Men), his wife “Darling” (Eliza Gonzalez), and Griff (Jon Bernthal, The Accountant) along with a passel of money safe and secure to Doc’s headquarters.
Baby shares a shabby apartment with his deaf foster-father Joseph (C.J. Jones) who disapproves of his life in crime. The young man “signs” that once his debt to Doc is paid, his driving days will be over. On a visit to his favorite haunt, Bo’s diner, where his late mother once worked, Baby meets beautiful waitress Deborah (Lily James, Cinderella) who, like himself, is a music fanatic and the pair fantasize about driving far away and finding a better life.
Baby’s “final job” (with an hour remaining you know this won’t be his final job), teams him up with the dangerous Bats (Jamie Foxx, Django Unchained) and a couple of no-account druggies. While, he expertly eludes the fuzz, this bank job is not so smooth, leaving bodies and multiple wrecks in its wake. After an intimate dinner with his now-girlfriend Deborah in Atlanta’s toniest restaurant, Doc spoils Baby’s evening by forcing him to take on another caper. The subsequent storyline quickly spirals into a dangerous vortex that puts Baby and his loved ones at considerable risk. [Warning: be prepared for a heavy dose of death and destruction, after all this is an "R”-rated film].
Cutting to the literal and figurative chase, Baby Driver is a pulse-pounding two hours of thrills enhanced by a long playlist of classic pop songs that are brilliantly woven into the fabric of the film. By the way, Paul Simon’s ear-worm title tune does pop up during the end credits.Veteran cinematographer Bill Pope has worked previously with Edgar Wright and conveys the excitement of the choreographed car chases and quite possibly the best on-foot escape sequence through buildings, parking decks, parks, and city streets that I have ever seen. Francine Maisler (The Revenant) has assembled an A-list cast and I was particularly struck by Jon Hamm’s major transformation from his usual urbane, well-tailored self to a scruffy mean-streets badass. A dark-hued film to be sure but one that lets in just enough light to more than amply reward its white-knuckled viewers with one of the best watches of the summer so far. Highly recommended.
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