Awful name, Baby Driver. Pretty cool movie, though. Especially if you prefer your action films chased with a double-shot of cars and music. Ripping a page out of Nicolas Winding Refn’s playbook, English director Edgar Wright delivers an explosive heist flick that, like in his Danish contemporary’s 2011 release Drive, centres on a troubled getaway driver torn between the seemingly inescapable despair of the criminal underworld and the promise of love.
Indeed, the characters are eerily similar. The main difference being that this film’s protagonist, Baby, played by Ansel Elgort, views the world with far more optimism.
The Neon Noir milieu of Drive was one built upon extreme nihilism: a Glam Gothic arena in which ultra violence and disappointment ultimately dictated the fate of the unnamed driver played by Ryan Gosling.
Baby Driver is different. Even through all the tense chase scenes (look out for that Subaru Impreza WRX Hawkeye expertly driven by stunt driver Jeremy Fry), threats of physical assault from his boss, Doc, here played by a somewhat uninterested Kevin Spacey, and incendiary clashes with fellow gang members Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Bats (Jamie Foxx), you get the sense that Baby is going to be alright.
Partly because, well, just look at him, but mostly because of the tunes he chooses to pump through his earbuds.
Substance in style:
Although we all have our favourite driving songs (depending on mood, mine swing from Guns N’ Roses’ Nightrain to Rob Zombie’s Two-Lane Blacktop and Black Sabbath’s Paranoid), Baby uses them not only to get the job done but also to drown out the ringing echo of his tragic past.
Whereas Winding Refn relied on brooding Synthwave soundscapes served up by the likes of Kavinsky, Desire and Cliff Martinez, Wright has filled Baby’s iPod with some of the hippest, happiest songs you’ll ever hear synced to celluloid.
Nowhere to Run by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up by Barry White. Harlem Shuffle by Bob & Earl. Brighton Rock by Queen. Baby Driver makes you want to get up and boogie. Which, despite its somewhat predictable rainbows-and-candy construct, is not a bad thing in the Rust Belt Gothic gloom of 2017.
Yeah, this is a feel-good action film in which the substance firmly lies in the actual style. “I’m not talking about your pigtails, but I’m talkin ’bout your sex appeal,” sing Simon & Garfunkel in their eponymous soundtrack contribution: a line that, ironically, tells you all you need to know about one of the most likeable heist adventure romps you’ll see post Drive. – Thomas Falkiner