Movie Review: Baby Driver

A competent caper film from the director of Shaun of the Dead lacks humor

Baby Driver
Directed by Edgar Wright
With Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Eiza González, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal

Fast cars, pretty women and crime make a surefire formula for a summer film. Baby Driver, the new film from cult director Edgar Wright, hits all the right notes but in the end remains a bit too aloof, too smug about it own cleverness. The ride is fun, but the destination isn't as original as promised.

The main character, identified as Baby (played by Ansel Elgort), is the silent type. Mostly he listens to pop music while he drives getaway cars. Over the course of the film his story is revealed, and is not at all what people might guess at the beginning. But he remains a bit enigmatic and unengaging throughout the film, even when the director tries to elicit sympathy for him by showing his soft side.

The musical score during the driving sequences is one of the main draws of the film.

Kevin Spacey plays a criminal mastermind named Doc. He plans out the capers and gathers together a band of criminals who don't know each other. Everything relies on split-second timing. Spacey plays Doc as cold and emotionless, and a bit of a control freak who has to know everything about the people working for him so he has some leverage.

Spacey is great at the role, but it is nothing he hasn't done before many times. He brings no surprises to the film.

John Hamm, best known for his roles as an executive in Mad Men, breaks out of his expected character zone a bit. He plays a drugged up criminal named Buddy, fast on the trigger and relentless.

Jamie Foxx also turns up as part of Doc's gang, and does some solid work. Music fans can watch for Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers as criminal in a few scenes.

Baby is a bit different than the other gang members. The script puts in one character whose sole purpose is to taunt and challenge him. Griff (Jon Bernthal) comes off as a bit of a film cliché, added just to try to create some tension in the scenes where the robbery is planned.

The robberies and the aftermath are well-staged, and the driving scenes are the highlight of the film. Baby Driver takes its inspiration from classic car films like Richard C. Sarafian's Vanishing Point (1971), Walter Hill's The Driver (1978) and the more recent Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (2011). All feature enigmatic drivers who say little but are masters behind the wheel.

The robberies also are inspired by a plethora of caper films but add little new to the genre. They are indistinguishable from the ones in many recent films. The inevitable shoot outs are a throwback to over-the-top Hong Kong action films of the 1990s and the wave of imitators.

There are some nice touches in the film, including Baby's romance with a waitress he meets and Baby's relationship with someone who helped to raise him.

Director Edgar Wright, who also wrote the script, is known for the comedies Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World's End (2013). There is a little humor in Baby Driver, but not enough for it to be truly considered an action comedy.

He delivers a very competent action film, but it lacks the touches that made his other films cult favorites. It that way, it is a bit of a disappointment.

But as summer film fare, it has action, suspense and romance with a good cast and some crisp dialogue, set to compelling score of hit songs. But it falls just a bit short of being the must-see classic that it was intended to be.

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