Susan Granger’s review of “Baby Driver” (TriStar Pictures/Sony)
British writer/director Edgar Wright puts the pedal to the metal for this propulsive, music-driven crime caper.
The titular Baby (Ansel Elgort) is paying off a debt to crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) by working as his rubber-burning getaway driver. Doc is the ruthless, short-tempered mastermind behind a series of robberies in Atlanta.
Baby’s backstory involves a tragic automobile accident in which his parents were killed, leaving him with chronic tinnitus, a “hum in the drum,” as Doc calls it – meaning that Baby functions best when rock music is blaring from one of his many iPods directly into his earbuds.
While Doc employs different thugs for each robbery, his most trusted crew includes coked-up Buddy (Jon Hamm), his wife Darling (Eliza Gonzales), and menacing, trigger-happy Bats (Jamie Foxx).
When he’s not involved in high-speed car chases, Baby hangs out at the diner where his mother once worked. That’s where he falls for a dreamy waitress named Debora (Lily James) who just wants “to head west… in a car we can’t afford, with a plan we don’t have,” listening to T. Rex’s “Debora” and Carla Thomas’ “B-A-B-Y.”
Their first date is at the local Laundromat where clothes spin around in time with the music.
Propelling this inventive thriller, Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz,” “The World’s End”) synchronizes the symphony of automotive action to the energetic rhythm of what’s playing on Baby’s mixtape, named after a Simon & Garfunkel track on their “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album.
It’s expertly choreographed by Ryan Heffington, best known for his music videos, and cranked up by Bill Pope’s vivid cinematography.
Familiar from “Divergent” and “The Fault in Our Stars,” expressive 23 year-old Ansel Elgort personifies the laconic wheelman, tenderly caring for elderly Pops (C.J. Jones), his wheelchair-confined, hearing-impaired foster father.
Kevin Spacey is at his wickedly sly best, and Jon Hamm simply chews the scenery with glee! Of course, the soundtrack’s a killer.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Baby Driver” revs up with an adrenaline-propelled 8. It’s a gas!