“Baby Driver” blends action, music seamlessly

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Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

Edgar Wright has always been a master behind the camera.

His modus operandi involves taking odd and seemingly cluttered movie concepts and turning them into cohesive and exciting action romps. His newest film “Baby Driver” is a mix of “The Transporter,” “Fast and the Furious” and a soundtrack designed by someone completely manic.

The soundtrack syncs up every scene to a specific piece of music, therefore making it an action movie musical with a bit of young-adult romance thrown in. Despite all this, Edgar Wright makes this disjointed starting point work in a fluid and exciting way.

After a car accident leaves young Baby (Ansel Elgort) with tinnitus he discovers music helps him drown out the persistent ringing in his ears. Using the beats and rhythm of the music to heighten his focus he takes on a job as an incredibly skilled driver.

After stealing from a crime boss called Doc (Kevin Spacey), Baby is forced to pay back his debt by operating as the getaway driver for Doc’s constantly changing band of criminals who fund Doc with elaborate bank heists.

Baby finds his escape from his life of crime and his saving grace in Debora (Lily James), a young waitress who works at the diner he frequents. Baby’s very humanity is put on the line as he takes one last job to drive away with Debora and never turn back.

It’s very rare you see action like this in a movie. It’s very grounded in reality but it’s elevated to the supernatural by the simple virtue of its almost musical like soundtrack. Each scene is made instantly memorable by its backing track.

Whether it’s The Beach Boys, Blur, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, T. Rex or Barry White, each song usage makes every scene pop with unforgettable quality. Not to mention the creative use of action in sync with the beat and rhythm of the soundtrack adds a humorous and energetic quality to every single action scene.

Tires skid against pavement to match humming violins. The growl of an engine revs at the same pace as an energized rhythmic guitar. Semi-automatic fire pulses along with hi-hats and snare drums. It all makes for truly inspired and riveting action scenes where your blood pumps in time with the action beats and the music as one.

The acting in the film is nothing to shrug your shoulders at either. Kevin Spacey gives his best film performance in years making his mob boss persona mysterious, savvy, scary and funny all at once.

Jamie Foxx plays “Bats” an unpredictable chaotic thug who gladly blows people away just for looking at him funny.

Eiza González brings forward some really great chemistry with her co-star Jon Hamm, who play Darling and Buddy respectively.The two are paired together as high-end thieves with a thirst for money but a respect for the craft that differentiates them between their fellow criminals.

Both also serve as mentors and friends to Baby due to most criminals not taking him seriously and often teasing him for his affliction.

The film includes a fun bit of mystery, as well. Characters you think you understand may be more shrouded in mystery than you realize. By the time the third act comes around it seems that character allegiances are never really as strong as they seem and the adage of “honor among thieves” only goes so deep.

Elgort’s Baby is the moral gray at the heart of this movie. He is a good kid and Elgort plays the role of straight-man, moral compass really well in this movie and always has.

For the most part nothing really differentiates Baby from Elgort’s other roles besides his southern accent. Although Wright plays off these strengths and really shows that Elgort has more range than one might think looking at this performance at a surface level.

Baby is a good person but he is right on the edge of dipping himself too far into the criminal underworld. He goes out of his way to avoid danger, he avoids association with career criminals as much as he can and as soon as he can break free of the debt he plans to end his life in crime forever.

Yet, he still seems to enjoy it. The chase is fun for him and despite his adverse reaction to killing, there are times where Elgort perfectly captures how hard it is for Baby to hold back his anger when witnessing the actions of the more unsavory members of his crew.

It’s certainly not worthy of Oscar, but it really differentiates this character from other Ansel Elgort roles.

Lily James is a weak spot though. She really has about zero agency in the film, serving only as a very charming and likeable love interest for Baby. There is nothing wrong with her performance really. She is funny and jovial and has an infectiously likeable spirit.

However, Debora’s character just feels flat. Although, in a world of colorful criminals with shaky motivations and twisted personalities, it’s to be expected that audiences won’t be really drawn in by the love-struck waitress.

This brings up another issue. There are moments in the film where the romance doesn’t work for me. It adds tension, the communication that they are in love is there and the two co-stars play the “star-crossed Romeo and Juliet” trope really well.

It just feels like the film leans in a little too far on the young-adult sections in this movie and Wright may not be the best choice to try and execute this specific type of romance.

Although, the actual union between the two does make for incredible conflict in the last half of the movie. I just wish it felt more believable and wasn’t as awkwardly handled in the more romantic moments of the film.

This relationship never makes the movie feel sluggish though, the action and dialogue all hit with the same punch with or without Baby and Deborah’s ill-fated limerence.

“Baby Driver” is another home run from Wright. One that occasionally misses the mark in the romance department but not enough to stop the charm exuding from its incredibly varied cast of characters, hilarious dialogue, eclectic soundtrack and blood-pumping action. Your adrenaline will surely be through the roof with this one.

Rating: 4.5/5