Speed Behind the Wheel: Baby Driver Review
Baby Driver tells the tale of a young man who specializes in helping armed robbers make a fast and clean getaway. Ansel Elgort stars as Baby, a driver in Atlanta who works for Doc (Kevin Spacey), who sets the targets for the heists and hires the crew. Baby once stole from Doc, which cost Doc money and put Baby in debt to this man. After helping Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Griff (Jon Bernthal) successfully elude the authorities following a bank robbery, Baby is just one job away from being out of debt to Doc. That job involves providing escape to Bats (Jamie Foxx), No-Nose (Flea) and JD (Lanny Joon). Trouble ensues once Bats and his men arrive at their target. A civilian gives pursuit, and and a guard and JD wind up shot dead. Nevertheless, Baby succeeds at his part and assumes that his days of driving for Doc have ended.
Baby wants to focus on caring for Joe (C. J. Jones), his deaf and aging foster father, and getting to know Debora (Lily James), a waitress he met following one of his jobs. He even puts his driving to use delivering pizzas. Doc, though, considers Baby his good luck charm, and coerces his driver to return. Doc, who never uses the same team twice, puts Bats, Buddy, and Darling on the same heist team, Doc even has Baby case the next target, a post office and its ample supply of blank money orders. Things go wrong before the heist as a weapons deal turns deadly, and makes Baby quickly devise some sort of an exit strategy for himself.
When writer-director Edgar Wright makes a film, he usually has some obvious sources of cinematic inspiration. For example, his breakthrough film, Shaun Of The Dead, draws from George Romero's zombie films. Baby Driver seems to draw inspiration from Drive, which even has a character named Doc. Wright has great chase sequences and a soundtrack filled with all sorts of good music (including a Simon & Garfunkel song that has the same name as the movie). However, Baby Driver bogs down in a very long climax, where Baby has to confront more opponents than Scott Pilgrim - and these confrontations are just about as uninteresting. Baby Driver is not a carbon copy of Drive, but it is not as compelling as the 2011 action picture from Nicholas Winding Refn.
Another problem with Baby Driver is Elgort as the quirky Baby, who plays music all the time because he suffers from tinnitus. He uses his love of music to fill several iPods, as well as many mix tapes. He takes flak from the robbers who think he's strange or beleive he doesn't listen. The role of Baby does elicit some sympathy, but Elgort is no Ryan Gosling. To use an old expression, Elgort, whose credits include The Fault In Our Stars and the Divergent film series, runs the gamut of emotions from A to B. That works in his favor to a certain extent in a film slanted toward action instead of drama, but Gosling's unnamed character remains more compelling than Elgort's portrayal of a young man trying to change his ways. The supporting cast compensates somewhat, including Spacey's manipulative Doc, Hamm's disillusioned Buddy, Foxx's manic Bats, and James's sweet and supportive Debora.
Baby Driver surrounds itself in flash and style that doesn't do too much in investing itself in the fate of its lead character. Baby clearly decides he wants to be a good man, and has to take a stand to fight for his way. Baby Driver has its motor running, but it's unfortunate that the film is not a finely tuned machine.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Baby Driver 2.5 stars. Slips out of high gear down the stretch.