It's an occasion to celebrate when a writer/director (Edgar Wright, "Shaun of
the Dead") comes up with something original in a seemingly exchausted genre,
in this case gang heist thrillers. "Baby Driver" is daring, unexpected,
clever, mean and, in spots, jet fueled fun. If you thought street racing
memes were stretched to the max, you're in for very welcome inventiveness,
with talents in all categories to pull it off.
Mob boss Doc (Kevin Spacey, "Horrible Bosses") is the leader of a holdup gang
or, more specifically, "gangs" because he puts them together on an as-needed
basis. That is, he hires men with the skill requirements of the job. There's
only one man besides himself who is necessary for every job: the
boyish-looking getaway driver they call "Baby" (Ansel Elgort). One of Doc's
rules is that no one uses their real name.
Sitting in his getaway car outside a downtown Atlanta bank absorbed in what's
grinding in his ear muffs, you get the immediate impression he's not your
usual criminal goon. Actually, this guy's vulnerable to the taunts
of the tough, violent criminals he works with, there for a cut in the cash.
But, when they're seated in a car with their baby at the wheel, and the cops
are closing in, they soon understand why he's on the crew. For first timers
with Doc, coarse dissing turns into respectful awe and consent to his cut.
But, Baby's been here on a temporary basis and therein lies the story's big
complication. A cunning guy like Doc might say no one quits on him but, for
the driver, it was coercion from the start and, in his mind, it was always
temporary work to pay off a debt. Now, new developments in Baby's life are
tugging at him for attention, and one of them's cute. Doc, faced with losing
his most reliable man is not pleased.
Here again, Wright shows a desire to avoid the stereotype. The writer/director
doesn't have his main mobster go off the rails in rage when Baby informs him
that he's about done. No threats of death to his first born. Instead, he has
Doc go for patient pursuasion, tending to give his film a backbone of
intelligence with a character slant.
With ingenuity in casting as well as admirable innovation, the breakneck
auto action and the freshly conceived central character will keep a hip
audience strapped in their seats -- enjoying such elements as a knockout
soundtrack by Academy Award winning composer Steven Price ("Suicide Squad").
The excitement and novelties will overcome any cavil when a little dramatic
boilerplate slows down the beautifully choreographed joy-ride.
"Baby Driver" might be the most kinetically energizing film for the year
(2017), and that's worth celebrating.
~~ Jules Brenner