It is somewhat mystifying that a film centered around an expert getaway driver would have so little actual driving in its climatic moments. Instead of a final car chase sequence that is worthy of the action movies Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver takes inspiration from, the audience is treated to a smorgasbord of scattered action and abrupt character tonal shifts that do not pay off the way one would hope.
Much like the shuffle mode on the various iPods that Wright’s protagonist clings to, the film dances to it own unique, and at times awkward, beat. Wright’s latest genre-bending opus is a music infused action-comedy for a modern generation. One geared towards those who take delight in watching the antics on Lip Sync Battle rather than diving into an original Broadway musical. Where a film like Moulin Rouge! took pleasure in having the cast sing popular songs in unexpected ways, Wright has no interest in having his characters randomly breakout into songs.
Wright’s film is a celebration of music, one in which the action frequently attempts to incorporate itself into the songs featured rather than the other way around. Every gunshot, squeal of tires, and finger tap is perfectly timed with each pulsing beat. This creates a film that initially feels refreshingly innovative, well at least for the first couple of acts.
The story involves an expert driver, Baby (Ansel Elgot), whose life has been on a downward criminal spiral ever since his parents died in a car crash that he was involved in as a kid. Suffering from tinnitus as a result, Baby frequently listens to music to drown out the humming in his ear. This ability to drown out the world around him allows Baby to be one of the best getaway drivers in town. A talent that a local crime boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), frequently exploits when planning his various bank robberies.
Working off a debt to Doc, Baby is forced to partake in a series of heists with a rotating crew, including unsavoury characters like Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González), Bats (Jamie Foxx), and Griff (Jon Bernthal), until he can payback Doc in full. Longing to leave his life of crime behind, Baby sees the potential for a new life when he meets music loving waitress named Debora (Lily James).
As fun as Baby Driver is to watch, it does not last long in one’s conscious. Mainly because the film front-loads its most thrilling moments. There is nothing in the film that comes close to the breathtaking opening chase sequence that gets the adrenaline pumping. Furthermore, the way Baby Driver steers itself onto the problematic road of contrivances in the final thirty minutes cannot be ignored.
Not only do characters make decisions that do not fit with anything we have seen from them up until that point, but Wright seems determined to beat home the notion that Baby, despite his criminal ways, is simply a “good boy” who found himself in the wrong lane in life.
While Baby Driver ultimately seems at odds with itself by the end-wanting to be both a dark tale of money, sex and crime, and also a sweet celebration of music and love-there is still a lot to enjoy. The action, humor and music make for a mostly entertaining, if uneven, ride.