It’s standard practice: walking around, listening to music and imagining you’re in a movie. We’ve all done it; Edgar Wright’s gone and made it.
Baby Driver is not a prequel to Walter Hill’s The Driver, but a heist flick about a young getaway driver called Baby (Ansel Elgort). This is a slight departure for Wright, being surprisingly light on laughs (unless you find an old lady saying “fuck” particularly amusing), but maintaining his trademark editing and whizz-bang direction. It’s a style that lends itself well to the frenetic action and fast-paced dialogue, but tends to leave character motivation in the dust.
There’s not a lot of logic behind characters’ decisions (why is Baby the only one not wearing a mask during heists?), nor is there any real subversion of action movie tropes – maybe Wright felt that would be retreading old ground, given the success of Hot Fuzz. Here, he seems content to pay gag-free tribute to Hollywood movies, bathed in a nostalgic glow for American diners and laundromats.
It feels more like La La Land than Hot Fuzz, thanks in part to the constant stream of music that Baby listens to on multiple iPods. Although it features classics from the Beach Boys and the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the soundtrack comes to less than the sum of its parts. Where Tarantino’s soundtracks always brought left-field choices together with distinctiveness and cohesion, Wright’s self-conscious, non-stop playlist feels a little pedestrian.
This all drives towards a turbo-charged final act that moves like lightning and grips like high-performance tyres. Wright knows how to make an eye-catching action sequence, and Baby Driver would benefit from an even more stripped-down approach, more along the lines of Free Fire or Premium Rush.
For instance, it could do without the uninspired romantic sub-plot that puts the brakes on proceedings, leaving it up to Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm (there must be something about surnames that are normal words with duplicated final letters) to bring the energy, which they deliver in spades.
Despite the poor name and even worse trailers, Baby Driver is a largely enjoyable caper, stalled only by tyresome plot contrivance and exhausting jukebox operation.