Every time I see Kevin Spacey in something I’m reminded how much I love seeing Kevin Spacey in things.
“Baby Driver” stars Ansel Elgort as a young getaway driver for a crime boss (Spacey) who has to do one last job before getting out of the life and running away with his girlfriend (Lily James). Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx also star as Edgar Wright writes and directs.
I’ll give Edgar Wright all the credit in the world, when the man makes a film he often takes the most basic, cliché genres and plots (like zombies, cops and heists) and somehow manages to put a fun, unique twist on them. I enjoy his trilogy of films with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and was looking forward to his version of “Ant-Man” before he left the project. Here, his “Baby Driver” is a heist film set to music, and while I can appreciate the attempt at originality there was something about this film just didn’t work for me.
I’m more than sure this is going to be one of those instances where I’m in the very minute minority opinion of a film and that’s fine. I wanted to like this movie; it was near the top of my 2017 watchlist. The cast is great, the trailers seemed fun and like I said, I’m a fan of Wright’s style, ambition and previous works. But about 15 minutes into this film I got “that feeling” that you occasionally get when you’re watching a film that has gotten good buzz, that “ohhhh no, I’m not gonna like this, am I?” feeling.
The cast is solid and they all play their roles well. Basically playing caricatures of who they play in everything they do, Jon Hamm is solid as the rogue and mysterious badass, Jamie Foxx is the wise-cracking gangster and Kevin Spacey is the dry “don’t dare double cross me” leader. Ansel Elgort, having seemingly survived the “Divergent” franchise, does good work in his first starring role without Shailene Woodley, although he does more swaying and nodding through Ray-Bans than actual talking. The characters all have nice dynamics between one another and Wright continues to excel at writing nice banter, even if Lily James’ diner waitress is just the damsel waiting to be rescued troupe.
The chase sequences are cool, but they suffer from two things: the best shots being in every trailer and TV commercial, and failing to compare to other car chase films. The most impressive moments of the car sequences (and there’s really only two of them in the film) are shown in the ads, whether it is when Baby does a 180 degree whip around a backing up truck or kicks the police road spikes back at them. Also, nothing in this film is as intense as, say, the opening scene to “Drive,” and that featured no real dialogue or musical score, just the commentary to a LA Clippers game (YouTube that fantastic sequence if you haven’t seen it). The editing and camera tricks just didn’t resonate with me, as much as I wanted them to.
One of the things everyone will talk about in regards to this film is how it pretty much always has a song going on in the background, to represent how Baby is constantly listening to his iPod. For the most part this is interesting and there are times the editing and character movements coincide with the beats which was cool.
But despite the good performances and ambitious take on a worn genre, I just sat there looking at the screen waiting for something to happen that would grab me and suck me into the world, but it never came. I felt like I should be enjoying things a lot more than I actually was, and the last thing you ever want to do is resent a film just because it didn’t meet your expectations.
“Baby Driver” isn’t bad and it’s the type of film that Hollywood needs right now–relatively fresh and upbeat–but it just wasn’t for me. Maybe down the road I’ll watch it again and realize I was horribly naïve and that this is a masterpiece, and I’m sure everyone and their uncle will be praising it all summer long, but this is my review and my thoughts, and for me, even the perfect Kevin Spacey wasn’t enough to validate this ride.
Critics Rating: 5/10