Young Mozart with a Go-Kart

2 Jul

Baby Driver is a movie for anyone who lives life with a constant soundtrack of music playing. Those who sing along with the radio, change the way they walk or drive depending on the song they’re listening to, and can’t sit still when they go to concerts.

This one’s for all of us.

Nowhere is this more true than in its opening credits sequence, where our title character (played by Ansel Elgort, from The Fault in Our Stars) doesn’t so much walk through the city as he grooves, while listening to Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle.” Eagle-eyed viewers will spot song lyrics appearing as graffiti on the walls.

Nice touch.

The film centers around “Baby,” who was coerced into working for Atlanta crime boss “Doc” (Kevin Spacey) to pay back a debt after being caught car-jacking one of Doc’s cars. Now, when Doc calls, he goes … to shuttle a team of nicknamed criminals (which includes Jon “Buddy” Hamm, Jamie “Bats” Foxx, and Eiza “Darling” González) to and from their various heists. The kid doesn’t say a lot, but man, can he drive. As Doc explains to Jon Bernthal’s “Griff,” Baby is a “devil behind the wheel” — and he’s right.

Baby wears earbuds and blasts music almost 24/7 to drown out the incessant ringing of tinnitus, which he’s had since a car accident that took the life of his parents when he was just a boy. Every one of the heists and the ensuing escape is timed to the length of a pre-selected song Baby’s loaded on to his old-school click-wheel iPod, whether that’s The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat” or his killer track, Queen’s “Brighton Rock.” Then he meets waitress Debora (Lily James, of Downton Abbey), and in her, Baby sees not just someone who reminds him of his mother, but the chance to ditch his shady lifestyle and make a clean break. Naturally, it’s not so easy.

No doubt, Baby Driver is one of the cooler movies you’re gonna see this or any summer, thanks to its retro charms, pitch-perfect performances, expert direction, and awesome soundtrack. And that soundtrack is killer, filled with the aforementioned tracks, plus old school classics like the Commodores’ “Easy” and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas’ “Nowhere to Run,” and more recent songs like Young MC’s “Know How” and Beck’s “Debra.” (Yes, Simon & Garfunkel’s “Baby Driver” makes an appearance, too.)

The whole way through, we’re hearing music, just like Baby is. The action moves to its rhythm, and the film is practically edited to its beat. That’s why, more so than with any other movies, this one demands that you see it on the big screen in a theater with sharp, loud, immersive sound. That’s the only way to truly mirror Baby’s POV. (I had to see the film twice before I had loud enough sound, and I’m still not satisfied.)

Wright (Shaun of the Dead) has written and directed a hip action film with laughs (“Who doesn’t like hats?“) and swagger that puts you right in the middle of high-speed car chases and barely steps off the gas for almost two solid hours. He’s populated it with memorable characters, each with their own distinct personalities and quirks — even the ones who don’t last very long.

Sure, nothing in the film quite reaches the dizzying heights of the impressive first chase, which is scored to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms,” and the film kinda ends twice (one too many times), but no matter. Baby Driver is full-speed-ahead summer entertainment. You’ll be drawn in to the action and powerless to resist its beat, too.

I’m giving this movie a B+.

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3 Responses to “Young Mozart with a Go-Kart”

  1. Rebecca July 4, 2017 at 11:36 pm #

    Great blog title!

    • Martin Lieberman July 4, 2017 at 11:39 pm #

      Thanks. It’s a line from the movie. Or actually, the trailer. Not sure why it was cut from the movie itself.

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