Film Review: BABY DRIVER (USA 2017) *** 1/2

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baby driver.jpgAfter being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

Director: Edgar Wright
Writer: Edgar Wright
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James

Review by Gilbert Seah
The most ambitious and most expensive of the Edgar Wright movies (SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ) , BABY DRIVER sees the Brit director working in a big budget Hollywood movie for the first time. The film is a car chase comedy crime caper with romance tied in for good measure.

The title derives from the name of the getaway car driver – Baby. A young and talented getaway driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) relies on the personal beat of his preferred soundtrack, to be the best in the world of crime, as music heightens his focus and reflexes to extreme levels. A car accident as a child killed both his parents, and left him with permanent tinnitus, which he blocks out using music. He is preferred as a getaway driver by Doc (Kevin Spacey), a mastermind organizer of bank robberies and other high-earning heists.

Baby’s love interest is Debora (Lily James). Baby’s foster father is black and wheel chair ridden. These two people in Baby’s life are targets when Baby refuses in any way to comply with Doc or his crime partners. His main crime partners are Buddy (Jon Hamm), his girlfriend, Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). Baby has no problem performing the heists unless a killing is involved.

The car chases have to be good in a film about a getaway car driver. The audience is shown a sample of these in the opening scene. There are a total of three main car chases and these are expertly edited by Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss. One of the most important components of a car chase on screen is its continuity. This is what made Peter Yates’ BULLITT (with Steve McQueen) and William Friedkin’s THE FRENCH CONNECTION two films best remembered for their car chases. Thankfully, Wright’s film falls into this category, him relying less on computer graphics than the real thing.

Ansel Elgort, young and looking fresh for this movie is good as the dancing driver. Kevin Spacey delivers a straight-face performance reminiscent of his Oscar winning performance in AMERICAN BEAUTY. Of the cast. Joe Hamm is also memorable, being cast against type as a hardened criminal ready to kill for revenge.

As Baby relies on listening to is preferred songs on his iPod, the film also requires a good soundtrack of equivalent songs that should drive the audience. Surprisingly, Wright only offers the audience samples. The audiences is for example, told of Baby’s song by Queen when driving for the final heist, but they never get to listen to the full song. Similarly for the segments when Baby is dancing to music, the music is silent and baby is shown with his dance moves to no music. It can be argued as a case of less leading the audience to wanting more.

I am not a true Edgar Wright fan. Though I have enjoyed his films, I think SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, are over-rated and I did not like THE WORLD’S END that had sloppy writing with inaccuracy in details. This makes BABY DRIVER Wright’s best movie.


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