Baby Driver is nothing more than a series of cringe-worthy moments deceitfully wrapped in ‘cult classic’ packaging. Crucify me all you want but it’s a loud, musical mess that isn’t at all worthy of the hype nor the many accolades it’s certain to be showered with. What it is worthy of, is a screenplay rewrite, a more focused director and an entirely new cast, starting with Ansel Elgort. He plays the lead character Baby, a young getaway driver for the motley crew of bank robbers masterminded by Kevin Spacey. Aside from his illicit activities, Baby is a quiet guy. He suffers from tinnitus and so enjoys listening to loud music to drown out the constant sound of ringing. He falls in love with a sweet waitress called Deborah, but his criminal colleagues and boss threaten to get in the way of their relationship. When Baby tries to quit his job, he discovers it involves a whole lot more than just handing in his notice.
If the storyline sounds bland to you that’s because it is. Baby’s hearing problem is simply not interesting enough to base an entire feature film around it and yet writer-director Edgar Wright does anyway. In doing so, he created a film that was doomed the moment he put pen to paper. Wright’s bland storyline also includes nauseating scenes of extreme PDA between Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza González), a loved-up duo part of the bank robbing squad. I think Ronald McDonald’s pal the Hamburglar would have played a more convincing criminal than Hamm, whose acting is appalling. The rest of the cast aren’t much better. This includes Kevin Spacey, whose well-known cool, calm demeanour isn’t right for this fast-paced action flick. He lacks the oomph that this film really needs to get off the ground. Jamie Foxx who plays a bank robber by the name of Bats, is tad bit better than the rest. He’s certainly more believable than Hamm, whose baggy eyes and unshaven face make him look more tired than thuggish. Elgort is the worst of the lot. His take on the word idiosyncratic is questionable. On paper, his character Baby is a little weird but nothing out of the ordinary; he has specific songs he likes to play during heists and occasionally he dances around the kitchen while making breakfast. Elgort somehow makes all these innocent quirks seem rather weird. Not weird in the fun sense but weird in the sense of why do you need to move from one place to another like that.
The soundtrack is second to none. It’s a great mix of musical eras, from Motown to 80’s rock and everything else in between. The problem is that the songs are played at full volume and so the music soon becomes too loud and in your face. We’re barely given a few seconds without the music blaring in our ears and even then it still plays quietly in the background, completely overriding everything on screen. If you were to close your eyes, it’d be all too easy to zone out and focus solely on the music. In fact, I’d highly recommend letting the sweet sounds of the soundtrack wash over you and take you to a place far far away from your costly cinema seat.
Wright’s desire to create a cult classic is all too obvious and ultimately the film fails because of it. A cult classic happens organically and often accidentally. You can’t forcefully create one. He spent too much time focusing on the film’s look rather than its story, and writing quotable lines rather than looking into whether or not the lines actually worked or even made sense in the plot. Lines like: ‘Not groovy JD. Not groovy at all’ do not work in any film made after 1979 for the record. If Wright put half as much effort into the script as he did his camerawork, the film would have been enjoyable as opposed to bearable. What’s also frustrating about this film is that many of its mistakes were fixable in the edit. Turn the music down, edit the film in chronological order. Of course this wouldn’t distract from Edgar’s terrible screenplay but it would have made the whole thing a little more bearable.
At its core, Baby Driver is just an ordinary film with an extraordinary soundtrack. But as far as cult classics are concerned, it isn’t one of them nor will it ever be. If this is the best we’ll get this summer then roll on autumn.