Monday, August 7, 2017

Baby Driver Movie Review: An Exciting Heist Thriller With An Inventive Soundtrack And Intense Performances

ANSEL ELGORT, who looks like a young Jestoni Alarcon, is best known as the leading man of Shailene Woodley in the weepy “Fault in Our Stars” and as the brother of Shailene in the “Divergent” series. He now comes on his own as a young action star in “Baby Driver”, where he plays the title role. His name is Baby and he is the getaway driver in daring robberies spearheaded by a notorious crime lord in Atlanta, Doc (Kevin Spacey), who considers him his lucky charm.

As a child, Baby figured in a car crash that killed his parents and this gave him a perennial ringing in his ears. To cover this up, he is always listening to music on his own iPod and this gives way to an entire repertoire of 80s music in the soundtrack.

We first see him involved in a bank robbery, then in the hold up of an armored car. The last is in robbing a U.S. Post Office branch. In the course of his job as a getaway driver, he gets to work with different bad guys. Among them are Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal (“The Punisher” in “Daredevil”), Eiza Gonzalez, and the most vicious of them all with whom he will later have a protracted and very violent showdown, Jon Hamm (Don Draper of “Mad Men”).

He is working as a getaway driver to pay off a debt. One more job and he is fully paid. Baby’s life becomes more colorful when he meets a pretty waitress, Debora (Lily James of “Cinderella”), and they’re quickly attracted to each other. Their young love story adds a touch of sweetness to the movie. They dream of driving away together. But Doc calls Baby for one last job, which goes terribly wrong.

The film is directed by Edgar Wright, a British filmmaker best known for his Cornetto or Blood & Ice Cream Trilogy of Brit comedies: “Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End”.

“Baby Driver” is a deviation for Wright as it’s more of a heist-action crime thriller with a very inventive soundtrack and intense, solid performances. It veers away from the usual heist flicks as it’s the getaway part and not the actual robberies that comprises the more high octane action sequences. It’s also spiced up with bits of comedy, like the “Halloween” masks used in one scene.

Elgort doesn’t disappoint in the title role, investing it with the right combination of soft-heartedness (especially for his disabled African American foster parent), innocence (he has a charming chemistry with Lily James) and ruthlessness (he can change gears, especially at the film’s third act) that make him quite endearing. He even has several dance moves while singing to his favorite tunes and he nails them quite well.

Baby is good at what he does, driving, and when he sits behind the wheel, the moves of his vehicle in car chase sequences are executed in such a way that they match the songs he is listening to at that moment. And the choices of songs make sure there is something for every kind of viewer, a refined version of what “Guardians of the Galaxy” offered before. The tunes include “Unsquare Dance” by Dave Brubeck, “Easy” by the Commodores, “Let’s Go Away for a While” by the Beach Boys, “Debora” by T. Rex, “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Barry White, and many more.

Kevin Spacey is reliable, as usual, terrific as Doc, the mentor with strings attached, lacing his line deliveries with sardonic wit. But what can you expect from the slimy Francis Underwood of “House of Cards”? All the other supports are given their moments to shine, particularly Jon Hamm as the villain who just refuses to die, helping make the movie a wild and fun crowd pleaser for viewers who love action and violence.

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