Baby Driver

As homage to classic heist films, Baby Driver starts exceptionally well but ends with a whimper.

When you have bank robberies, armed gunmen wearing caricature masks and fast getaway cars, you are most certainly watching a heist movie. Add music in every scene, a bit of old fashioned misty-eyed romance, oddball characters thrown into a madcap mix and you are now watching Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver – a kinetic, off-the-wall action comedy that starts with a bang, but before you know it, is gone in 60 minutes. Everything after is like the recoil of a gun ejecting a spent cartridge.

The first hour is so much fun, it contains every reason you would recommend watching this film. Even so, the first two minutes is all the viewer needs to get hooked in. Written and directed by Wright, the film begins with infectious energy soon after we are introduced to baby-faced Ansel Elgort as the titular getaway driver for a group of armed robbers organised by Doc (Kevin Spacey). He is called Baby because he is the youngest member of the crew and basically a kid. Baby also suffers from permanent hearing damage owing to a tragic accident, so must listen to music to drown out a constant hum in his ears. Seen through Baby’s perspective, everything that happens in the film is synchronised to his music. Be it gun shots, doors opening and closing, tyres screeching, dialogue, and every other sound effect is seamlessly integrated into the soundtrack and camerawork with stupendous attention to detail. And as soon as we are hooked to the music, Wright moves swiftly into the plot specifics – Baby owes Doc one last job, after which he is free to pursue his own life. But as we have seen in previous heist films, there is no such thing as a last job. Once you’re in, there is no way out.

Despite his obligation to Doc, Baby is a nice guy and sure enough things get complicated when he meets love interest Deborah (Lily James), a waitress at a local diner. They plan a perfect getaway but with the arrival of a new stick-em-up crew, ala Bonny and Clyde couple Buddy and Darling (John Hamm and Eiza González), and trigger-happy badass Bats (Jamie Foxx), all hell breaks loose. What ensues is a roller-coaster, edge-of-your seat thrill ride all the way but is it the best from visionary director Wright as early reviews seem to say? Including Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, all of Wright’s six films to date have been wildly entertaining action comedies with clear love for genre films that came before. Baby Driver is no different in that it is a love letter to some of the greatest heist films from Hollywood (how many references to heist films can you spot in this review?). The car chase scenes for example are non CGI rendered, meaning actual stuntmen were used in white-knuckle maneuvering that resembles chase scenes from the original The Italian Job. But while the film could have remained a simple heist movie (where inevitably the last heist is always botched), Wright’s story gets muddled with grand themes of loss and love heals all wounds, and then turns into a farce with a hammy ending where characters refuse to die. No pun intended.

Compared to some of the big titles opening this summer, Baby Driver is much smaller in scale and budget, but still manages to stand its ground as an exhilarating action-comedy with nothing but the will to entertain. Add to that a fantastically assembled soundtrack fused with almost every scene and we are essentially watching a musical on wheels. There is also Wright’s unique sense of pulp cinema style oozing in every scene, but despite all that has gone into making Baby Driver an interesting and fun film (including a well assembled cast), the biggest downfall is the lack of any relatable or loveable character. That, and the fact that the film opens on an octane high but simmers down to a whimper towards the end undermines what could have been a scorcher of a film this summer.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.