In his filmography which includes Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Edgar Wright has shown a flair for infusing a vast music catalogue to mix with inventive action. It’s on display at the highest gear in Baby Driver. Only Quentin Tarantino rivals and probably tops this director at it. For the majority of its running time, Driver merrily coasts in its own reality (like Quentin’s projects do) and it’s often a thrill.
Despite sounding like a Dreamworks animated project where a precocious infant gets an Uber license, the title refers to Ansel Elgort’s name and profession. His job is to ferry bank robbers around and make grand escapes upon completion. This is done at the direction of criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey, oozing sarcasm and smarminess as only he can do). Baby is rarely disconnected from his ear buds. A childhood tragedy that took the life of his musician mom has left him with tinnitus or a “hum in the drum” as Doc calls it. This means he is constantly blaring a seriously cool playlist that permeates the car chases that are his occupational hazard.
It turns out Baby is not involved in his line of work on a voluntary basis. He’s ready to move on, especially after meeting lovely waitress Debora (Lily James) who’s ready to ride off into the sunset with him. Yet there’s always that last job and it involves working with thieves Bats (Jamie Foxx, who’s having a grand time) and hot and heavy and psychotic couple Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). Baby has a moral compass when it comes to his work. His coworkers don’t always share that view.
Baby Driver takes little time getting the audience accustomed to its style. Between the chases (of which are expertly handled), we get plenty of tuneful fun. Some of the tracks are meant to get Baby motivated to do his assignments. Others are meant to further the courtship of him and Debora. Elgort and James have a winning chemistry here. You want them to hit that open road into happily ever after.
Only in the last few minutes does Driver somewhat stall when it becomes less enamored with its own hyper universe and becomes a more traditional action thriller. Thankfully there’s plenty of joyful noise that precedes it.
***1/2 (out of four)