Baby Driver (2017)
Baby Driver is a stylish barrage of action. It's overkill par excellence. It's music to die for.
It sometimes misses its target, but it certainly keeps on firing at high velocity.
Each year I look anxiously for a film that I can recommend to everybody - a pleaser for a mass audience. Last year I was comfortable recommending Hidden Figures. It wasn't in my Top Ten, but I was confident about its entertainment value and range. Hidden Figures delivered on what it set out to do for a wide audience. It entertains with some intelligence. Lion was my second choice. but it was not as much a sure thing.
This year I hoped Baby Driver might be the film I could recommend as entertainment for almost everybody. It's not.
Action addicts will love Baby Driver. Its target audience will be in Seventh Smash-Em-Up Heaven. The rest of us, not so much. We'll like some scenes, but as character wanes so may our connection with the film. Writer/director Edgar Wright sacrifices all subtlety for over-the-top effects.
One character is on the verge of being killed at least five different times. Finally, he crashes and burns. So, too, does the film. The deft touch becomes a clammy one.
Two of the most nasty villains actually express their belief in love. Aww...
Like to have it both ways, Edgar?
And, don't worry, there's a contrived happy ending to end the spastic journey.
Baby Driver is all over the place. But it does have a good share of positive qualities. The use of music is clever and evocative. Often the multiple car chases are spectacular. Some of the dialogue is smart.
Ansel Elgort is ideally cast as Baby, the young wheelman who suffers from tinnitus. He is mostly expressionless, but he has a likable personality. But the best quality he brings to the role and the film is a crucial credibility.
Lily James is appealing as Debora, the waitress with whom Baby has a relationship.
The crews of bad guys reek with nastiness. Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, et al. make the viciousness compelling. C.J. Jones seems slightly out of place as the old deaf man, for whom Baby cares. But their relationship stresses the decency absent in much of the rest of the movie. Wright had to check that box.
Eiza Gonzalez is convincing as Darling, the female robber, who is perceptive.
The movie's portrayal of the two sexes is notable. The women are good; nearly all of the men are bad. The men are almost universally insensitive and selfish, even Baby's late father and the gruff owner of a diner. His deaf friend is the exception.
The women are positive: Baby's late mother, his girlfriend, a friendly bank teller, bystanders like the African-American woman who is robbed, but testifies for Baby.
Wright is a writer/director out to please. He tries to have it all ways. But as the film evolves, every time he reaches a crossroads, he takes the less subtle way. Character gets splattered. Pedal to the metal - and sole to the soul.
Whatever their flaws, the most popular films, such as Hidden Figures, are humanizing.
Baby Driver is dehumanizing. Welcome to 2017.