Movie review: Baby Driver

Baby Driver is the least Edgar Wright-iest movie Edgar Wright has ever made. This is not a bad thing. The lightning-quick cuts, fast zooms and general spoofy nature that largely defined his previous four features had run their course by 2013’s disappointing The World’s End, meaning Wright was smart to switch gears for his latest. Baby Driver is a musically-charged crime caper that’s still super stylish but also a bit more refreshingly mainstream than the geek catnip he’s known for churning out. Remember all the Tarantino derivatives that came out during the ’90s in the wake of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction? Baby Driver is like a really, really good one of those … with a bitchin’ soundtrack.

Ansel Elgort stars as Baby (maybe his real name, maybe not), a getaway driver pulling heists with various criminal crews all in the employ of dapper crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Because of a bad car wreck he was in as a kid, Baby has chronic tinnitus, and to drown out the buzzing in his ears he constantly listens to the music that fills up his never-ending supply of classic iPods. It’s cool though because he can read lips and the tunes actually propel his driving ability to some next-level shit. (Dom Toretto would hire this kid in a second.)

Despite his thriving criminal career, Baby has a heart of gold. We know this because (a) he falls in love with Debora (Lily James), the innocent, absolutely adorable waitress who works at a nearby diner and (b) he only works as a getaway driver to pay back a silly debt he owes to Doc. Once that’s settled, he plans to go straight and abscond cross-country with the woman he cherishes. The problem is that Doc may not be so keen to let him go — Baby is just too damn good at his job. Oh, and also, Doc’s crews are staffed by a series of psychopaths who have their own various issues with Baby, especially once it’s revealed that he’s been secretly recording all of their heist-planning meetings. Hey, it’s just because he likes to make music out of spoken words, honest! But you try telling that to a crazy-ass Jamie Foxx … or a stubbly Jon Hamm with his hair greased back and no time for bullshit.

The music — and Wright and his team’s choreography of various actions scenes to it — is the star of the show here. Baby driving is set to music. Baby trying not to get shot is set to music. Hell, Baby just picking up some coffee on the to work is set to music. It’s all put together in a really fun, seamless way. Plus, there’s Queen. (It is well established that Queen makes everything better.) Like I said, because it’s lacking certain hallmarks of his earlier work, Baby Driver is not discernibly an Edgar Wright film, yet it’s clear that someone with full command of their craft is behind the wheel of the production.

Based solely on the trailer, I was concerned I might want to punch Elgort in the face for the entire run time, but thankfully that turns out to be not the case. I’ve never seen Elgort on screen before, but he seems well-cast here — a bit dorky but still cool enough to get the girl. The role plays a little heightened, but he makes it work. As for the rest of his cast, Spacey does his Spacey thing. Foxx does his Foxx thing. Hamm is the biggest standout, biting into a role that veers from charming to menacing. He’s damn good, as is Eiza Gonzalez, his in-movie girlfriend who’s sexy as hell but violently high maintenance. My big complaint: NOT ENOUGH JON BERNTHAL. (But, honestly, is there ever?)

Wright keeps everything moving at a good pace — hooray for the sub-two-hour action movie! — and though the film is largely predictable, those bitchin’ tunes and that seductive cast make the story a trip worth taking. The end result: Wright’s best film since Hot Fuzz and an action film that will have you pumping your fist and tapping your feet.