Edgar Wright’s Exuberant ‘Baby Driver’ is an Automotive Musical Like no Other

Baby Driver,” a new vehicular-action-thriller-jukebox-musical-romance from the British writer-director Edgar Wright, is almost as entertaining as it is hyphen-depleting. This is movie craftsmanship and showmanship of a very high order.

In the dazzling opening sequence, a red Subaru WRX carrying a team of bank robbers nimbly weaves in and out of Atlanta traffic, dodging impossible roadblocks and playing shell games with other cars. Through it all, the blare of police sirens barely registers over the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms,” with its propulsive refrain of “I wanna dance!”

Baby (Ansel Elgort), the exceptional young driver behind the wheel, knows how to dance and then some. Never taking his eyes off the road or his headphones out of his ears, he times every sharp turn and screeching halt to the beat of a soundtrack that only he — and, blissfully, the audience — can hear. Baby swerves with verve and ditches the cops within minutes, making the first of several narrow escapes that the movie turns into first-rate escapism.

Wright, the gonzo comic-thriller pastiche artist behind “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End” (his masterpiece, for my money), has a talent for repurposing the creakiest B-movie standards. Those three earlier films may be merciless satires of middle-class English complacency, but they are also funny-bloody valentines to the deep and inexhaustible riches of American genre movies.

With “Baby Driver,” his first film since 2010’s “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” set on this side of the Atlantic, Wright pays exuberant pop tribute to pictures like Walter Hill’s 1978 cult favorite, “The Driver,” as well as its ultra-stylish, ultra-violent 2011 descendant, Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive.” Baby has something in common with the nameless, laconic getaway artists in those earlier movies: He doesn’t say much, and he’s very, very good at his job.

But Elgort, casting off the constraints of his most famous role (until now) in “The Fault in Our Stars,” has panache and personality aplenty beneath that shy-kid veneer, and Wright doesn’t reduce him to an avatar of existential cool. He’s determined to show us what’s going on between the kid’s ears, even if the answer is a whole lot of Queen, Golden Earring, the Commodores and Simon & Garfunkel.

Years ago, as we see in a recurring flashback, Baby was in a serious accident that left him with tinnitus. The steady pop-rock stream that now issues forth from his iPod doesn’t just drown out the constant ringing in his ears; it focuses and liberates him, granting him something like second sight. That makes him a great driver and an invaluable asset to Doc (Kevin Spacey, chilled to perfection), an Atlanta crime boss who promises to let Baby go once he’s worked off his debts, but has no intention of letting him get away.

Full Review @ Los Angeles Times

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