‘Baby Driver’ Runs on the Fast Track of Movieland

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CHICAGO – While it may seem that we’ve seen this type of tough-guy robbery gang film before, “Baby Driver” lives in its own universe, that of the movieland of movies. It is rich in squealing tires, bang-bang guns synched to the soundtrack, and a mystery cool boy creating his own star-crossed romance.

What distinguishes “Baby Driver” from the other Quentin Tarantino-type attempts is the building of its environment. The atmosphere gets more dense as the film goes on, the feeling more fantasy like and idyllic as the story of the expert getaway driver unfolds. The film is specifically cast to take advantage of that build-up, including simply great performances from Ansel Elgort as the title character, supported by a different-looking Jon Hamm, a bombastic Jamie Foxx and the amped-up boss image of Kevin Spacey. Writer/director Edgar Wright (“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”) combines his snarky comedic style with the creation of his Baby Driver world, and the result is pure entertainment.

The enigmatic crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) is an expert in gathering the right gang together to execute his elaborate robberies. The only constant in the ever-changing cast of criminals is Baby (Ansel Elgort), the specialty getaway driver whose elusive skills practically guarantee they won’t get caught. Baby is paying off a debt to Doc, and just as the last installment is due he meets waitress Debora (Lily James).

All American: Ansel Elgort as the ‘Baby Driver’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

There is one last heist, naturally, and it involves Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s wife Darling (Elza González) and the mercurial Bats (Jamie Foxx). They are going to hit a Post Office, but the situation goes sideways. Because of this shift in circumstance, Baby is now being pursued for revenge, and his new pursuit becomes is to find the open road with Debora.

All of the elements of the heist movie… the disparate characters, the smart ass boss man (Spacey practically owns this persona) and the elements that can undo everything are all present. But how Edgar Wright makes it move in a different way is about the style. The gunplay and the getaways are a symphony that are tied into Baby’s earbuds – he listens to a constant soundtrack because of a ringing in his ears due to a childhood accident. And yes, that plays into the enigmatic coolness of the Baby Driver that no one can seem to reach, and Ansel Elgort portrays it to perfection.

Another happening that Wright creates is the way the supporting characters play their roles. They are all pretty repellent, but in that sociopathic nature they are also very funny. Jamie Foxx stands out as Bats, who has the attention span of a gnat and cannot stand Baby Driver’s status as Doc’s favorite. Foxx establishes a rhythm with the character that makes him almost constantly hilarious, even in his bizarrely insensitive manner. Wright got the most from everyone, including a harsh and unrecognizable turn from Jon Hamm.

Baby and the Gang Takes a Class Picture in ‘Baby Driver’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

The movie takes awhile to get up the ramp, mostly because of a set up that was copied from other criminals-are-funny-rebels films. But that almost was the point, because once it cranks into its high octane awareness, the film becomes a vital spark that lights the way towards a pleasurable series of broken people and upended scenarios, all fired up like Fourth of July fireworks. Afterward, the audience might all have to have a cigarette together.

The is the perfect hot movie to sit in the too-cold air conditioning of movie summer. It crackles with the movement and joy of worlds that are created – and can only be played out – through the pure energy of the big screen and a pulsing soundtrack. It is where the truth lies in the invention of the summer movie.

“Baby Driver” opens everywhere on June 28th. Featuring Ansel Elgort, Jon Bernthal, Jon Hamm, Elza González, Lily James, Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey. Written and directed by Edgar Wright. Rated “R”

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

Writer, Editorial Coordinator

© 2017 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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