We all know that Edgar Wright is one of the best comedy directors in the business right now. However, people often overlook his knack for action. Hot Fuzz might’ve been a satire, but the final shootout blows anything Michael Bay has ever done out of the water. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was a visual marvel, seamlessly blending the live-action world with the colors of a comic book and the retro fun of a video game. Of all the projects that he’s helmed, Baby Driver is perhaps the closest Wright has ever come to directing a pure action picture. Even on that basis, though, the film is still one of a kind.
Baby Driver is a bit like a heist movie meets a 1980s dance flick. That’s actually quite fitting since our titular character shares the same name as the lead from Dirty Dancing. Ansel Elgort plays Baby, who channels Ryan Gosling’s nameless protagonist from Drive when behind the wheel. When he’s not in a vehicle, though, Baby’s dancing down the street like Ren from Footloose. Never too far away from an iPod, he sports a playlist on par with Star-Lord’s. Baby may be a man of few words, but the carefully selected soundtrack always sums up exactly what’s going through his head.
After stealing from a kingpin known as Doc (Kevin Spacey), Baby becomes a getaway driver to pay off his debt. By day, he operates with dangerous criminals, including Jon Hamm and Eiza González as the deadliest pair since Bonnie and Clyde, not to mention an especially foulmouthed Jamie Foxx. By night, Baby flirts with a waitress named Debora (Lily James) and tries to do right by his foster father (CJ Jones). After numerous bank robberies and watching countless innocents get caught in the crossfire, it appears that Baby is one last job away from retirement. Of course if the Fast and Furious movies have taught us anything, “one last job” never really means one last job.
On paper, Baby Driver might sound like every other heist thriller ever made. There are several aspects that distinguish the film, however, and one of them is its uproarious sense of humor. The cast works off one another wonderfully and the one-liners never miss their target. There’s even a reference to Monsters, Inc. in there that strangely matches the movie’s tone. Along the way, Wright pokes fun at various heist clichés while also paying homage to them.
Like many of his previous movies, Baby Driver starts off as a spoof of sorts, but becomes the real deal by the final act. The stakes are raised, villains emerge as more intimidating, and the action gets surprisingly intense. That might seem like a drastic shift in mood, but the transition comes off as 100% natural. This is largely because the film never loses track of what made it unique to begin with, maintaining its self-awareness and perfectly integrated music. All the while, Wright fills every shot with brisk editing, engaging cinematography, and sound design worthy of an Academy Award. With a tank full of kinetic energy, Baby Driver is a hit and homerun.