Sometimes I just want a movie that kicks ass. And Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver delivers. From the breathless opening car chase through Atlanta as Baby (Ansel Elgort) drives getaway for bank robbers Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Griff (John Bernthal) in a red Subaru the movie does what a popcorn film should in this summer of shame: makes the audience forget about current events and follow the action’s live current. Let ‘er rip!
Baby-faced Elgort, the doomed heartthrob in the YA tear-fest The Fault in Our Stars, explodes from boy-toy to A-list star here. A Gregory Peck or a Gary Cooper or James Stewart: Maybe. With deep focus, he plays the gently scarred, word-shy youth with a tragic past. He lives by his own iPod soundtrack, dancing partner-less through life until he meets – kaboom! — diner waitress Deborah (a dishy, disarming Lily James).
BABY DRIVER ★★★1/2
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Lily James, Eiza Gonzalez, John Bernthal
Running time: 113 mins.
The script encourages Elgort to exploit his past dancing experience, and there’s an Astaire ease and bounce in the steps he takes, whether grooving down the street carrying a coffee four-pack or eluding the cops by leaping down the up escalator in a Georgia mall. And, because of his ease in his own skin, Elgort proves himself an agile actor capable of emoting from the neck down even as his face often remains a mask of bland cuteness beneath his habitual shades and between his earbuds.
What Elgort’s Baby radiates in spades is heart – “miles and miles of heart” to quote the musical Damn Yankees! [[https://youtu.be/Ry8CpIg2fvU]] He’s no cynical hipster, just a good Southern boy gone bad, twisted by circumstance waiting, like so many trapped movie heroes before him, to grab that one last score before he’s free to make a getaway from crime. And it’s that essential quality that places this musical action heist pic right in Wright’s wheelhouse. What defines the English writer-director’s films is their humanity, whether it’s best friends remaining true to each other despite one half’s zombification in Shaun of the Dead, or the comradery of cops in Hot Fuzz.
With comic dialog, rich character development, sharp editing and action sequences, and musical references from Queen to Paul Simon, Wright keeps the film rocking and rolling, giving new life to a familiar genre. Hamm, who is so freakishly funny as messianic abductor Richard Wayne Gary Wayne in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, slays (and slays again) as a relentless, drug-fueled modern-day Clyde to sultry Eiza Gonzalez’s Bonnie. Hamm’s clearly having a blast running wild and ripping the hell out of his suave Mad Men image that his joy is contagious.
Jamie Foxx’s Bats, a testy, trigger-happy con from the trap ratchets up the tension, while Kevin Spacey hews closer to his comfort zone as Doc, the smooth operating suit behind the series of manic heists that punctuate the film. If my worst criticism is that Spacey’s thick auburn wig is distracting, then clearly this crackling crime caper is among this summer’s most entertaining movies and, hallelujah, not a sequel, prequel or franchise. It satisfies my need for speed, baby.