Monday, July 24, 2017

Baby Driver (2017)

Despite its relative star power—Jamie, Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Kevin Spacey, along with handfuls of familiar who's-thats—Baby Driver is all car chases and lovingly crafted soundtrack. It's the new movie from director and writer Edgar Wright, director and cowriter of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which I love, Shaun of the Dead, which I like, and Hot Fuzz, meh. Before we go any further, let's linger a moment on the best point, the soundtrack: the Beach Boys, "Let's Go Away for Awhile" ... Bob & Earl, "Harlem Shuffle" (the Foundation, "Harlem Shuffle") ... the Commodores, "Easy" (Sky Ferreira, "Easy") ... the Damned, "Neat Neat Neat" ... Focus, "Hocus Pocus" ... Golden Earring, "Radar Love" ... Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, "Bellbottoms" ... Barbara Lewis, "Baby I'm Yours" ... Carla Thomas, "B-A-B-Y"—kind of a theme song for obvious reasons. That's a fraction, it's all great stuff, and it's pretty much nonstop, though too often it slips into the background. The story is a bunch of gangster cliches about a getaway driver named Baby. He's young but has tinnitus so he plays music constantly through earbuds to help handle the condition. While the technology of interest in Baby Driver is mainly the old-fashioned screeching and skidding internal combustion engine on wheels, the homely old iPod gets its share of the glory too. Baby carries around a bunch of them because he has so many songs (and most look like Classics too, because he's just that kind of guy). The tunes chill him out and help him focus when he's ditching the scene of the crime with carfuls of henchmen and often the cops in pursuit. Which brings us to the carbon-spewing main feature of this attraction. There is some mighty fine stunt driving on display here, if perhaps a bit too heavy in the sound design on a certain stuttering, chattering skid noise (reminiscent of a Hanna-Barbera sound effect from the '50s and '60s). Oh lordy, that Baby cuts around those Atlanta streets like nobody's business. These scenes may not be up to parts of the Mad Max / Road Warrior franchise or certain Asian action pictures (thinking of some Jackie Chan scenes), but if it's not too old school to say, they're at least as exciting as Bullitt, The French Connection, and Vanishing Point, all of which thrilled me. But that was circa 1971 and this is 2017 and I'm sorry to say the massive carbon loads of these scenes brought me down, notwithstanding that some of the best action is actually on foot. The story is studiously stock boy meets girl desperation hit the road heat and flash stuff, often dependent on wincing coincidence to move it along. The leads—Ansel Elgort as Baby and Lily James as Debora—are adequate, young and attractive and fitted out with strange and unbelievable backstories. The movie is not really about them, however, and they and the rest of the cast rarely get in the way of what the movie is actually about, which as I said is car chases and the soundtrack. When that's pumped up good, which it often is, this movie rides a soaring wave, as long as you don't mind seeing figurative plumes of carbon billowing off the digital screen.

1 comment:

  1. I'm out of my element here but an important question would be how this measures up w/ the Fast and Furious franchise, right? Although, some of your description reminds me of True Romance a little too and I loved that movie. Popcorn movie?