Baby Driver try­ing too hard to be cool

South Waikato News - - Movies -

Baby Driver is set in present day At­lanta, Ge­or­gia (Ge­or­gia has one of the United States’ most gen­er­ous tax re­bate schemes for film-mak­ers).

Baby (Ansel El­gort) is a preter­nat­u­rally gifted driver whose debt to crime lord Kevin Spacey means he is the only per­ma­nent mem­ber of Spacey’s ro­tat­ing team of stick-up artists.

Over the course of a cou­ple of heists, the core of the gang – Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eiza Gonza´ lez – be­gin to frac­ture, mostly over the lengths Foxx’s homi­ci­dal ‘‘Bat’’ will go to. Ev­ery­thing goes ter­ri­bly wrong. As it must.

Com­pli­cat­ing Baby’s sit­u­a­tion is the fact that he has fallen in love with Deb­ora (Lily James), a wait­ress at a lo­cal diner.

Baby Driver just doesn’t know what film it is from one scene to the next. There’s a cutesy, dorky teen rom-com un­fold­ing in the diner, but it’s welded to an in­creas­ingly blood­soaked se­ries of armed rob­beries acted out by psy­chopaths.

Wright got away with a sim­i­lar John Hughes-meets-john Woo mashup in Scott Pil­grim by set­ting the vi­o­lence mostly in a fan­tasy al­ter­na­tive re­al­ity.

But Baby Driver doesn’t have that get-out and the on-screen mix quickly shatters our credulity and good­will.

An ob­vi­ous com­par­i­son might be True Ro­mance. But that film was based around a cou­ple of cred­i­bly tough and dam­aged kids. Noth­ing in El­gort’s per­for­mance as Baby hints at any real steel in his spine. And while Deb­ora never gets to do much at all but hang around wait­ing for Baby to call, True Ro­mance‘s Alabama (Pa­tri­cia Ar­quette) fought mafia thug James Gan­dolfini to the death armed with noth­ing more than a dunny lid, a can of hair­spray and a corkscrew. The com­par­i­son is kinda damn­ing.

Wright is get­ting a lot of praise for stag­ing the car chases with ac­tual cars and stunt driv­ers. And that’s fair enough. After the mu­ti­lated pix­els-as-cars of the Fast and Fu­ri­ous fran­chise, it is re­fresh­ing to see real me­tal on screen.

But the chases never achieve any­thing like the vis­ceral grit and threat of a French Con­nec­tion, Bul­lit, Ronin. I walked into Baby Driver want­ing, maybe even ex­pect­ing, to see a film that – like ev­ery­thing else Wright has made – would be the stuff of a fu­ture cult. What I got was a film that was try­ing way too hard to be cool. And as every­body knows, there’s noth­ing less cool than that. – Graeme Tuck­ett

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