Worst title ever?
In the context of the film, the title makes perfect sense. The main character is named Baby, he’s a getaway driver for heists, and he’s really young. In the context of wanting to sell more movie tickets, it’s maybe the worst title ever. When I first saw it on the advanced screening list, my immediate thought was “so, it’s a cartoon about a baby driving something? No thanks.” I didn’t give this film another thought for weeks until early reviews started to show up praising the film and using adjectives that would never be used for an animated movie for kids. In confusion, I looked up the summary and saw it was a heist movie with Kevin Spacey and thought “Cool. I’m in. Also, wow, is that a bad title.”
Like with Wonder Woman, the composite score from critics is in the nineties and, like with Wonder Woman, that score should not be taken at face value. Is Baby Driver a good movie? Yes, it is. Is it a great movie? No, it is not. The heaping piles of praise created a level of expectations that make it impossible not to be somewhat disappointed by the end of the film. And yes, both my friend and I were disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, we liked the movie, but our mutual reaction was simply “huh.”
(If you plan on seeing this film, look away now because SPOILERS. In order for me to explain why this movie isn’t 97% percent awesome, I have to talk about a lot of what happens in the third act.)
Definitely some style points.
Baby Driver is a classic example of a movie whose style-to-substance ratio is way out of whack. It’s not that there was too much style, like you see in every Zack Snyder abomination. In fact, it was just about the right amount of style. The most obvious example is how director/writer Edgar Wright uses music in the film. Baby (Ansel Elgort) suffers from tinnitus (a ringing of the ears), so he listens to music almost the entire film, including during the heist planning sessions and the heists themselves. They are his rhythm and become the audience’s rhythm as well. They even become the rhythm at which guns are fired during shootouts. It’s very cool film making. Wright also uses music in place of conversations, with Baby lip-syncing the lyrics to tell his foster dad, Joe (CJ Jones), about things (Joe is deaf, so lip-reading is a big thing in this flick). Yet, somehow Wright forgot to pick music more relevant to the actual story. Think about how Guardians of the Galaxy picked music that fit the scenes; Baby Driver picked music that just sounded cool or had the same name as one of the characters in it (after Debora literally talked about songs with their names in them). Baby also mixes his own music out of recorded conversations, yet these are never heard during the film aside from when he makes one early in the film and when Kevin Spacey plays one to find out what they are. Big miss in a movie so heavily covered in tunes.
The first act of this movie is nearly perfect. It starts off with a heist and shows us a lot of what we need to know about the characters and premise, most importantly Baby showing off his driving skills during the getaway. It’s only nearly perfect because the cop cars magically appear exactly where they need to be, appear in diamond formation at one point, and two red cars that just happen to look the same from above just happen to be driving right next to each other right as Baby is driving by. Okay, we’ll let those go as typical action movie cliches, but remember the typical part when you think about rating this movie.
Do cops practice this move?
After the heist, we meet Doc (Kevin Spacey), the kingpin of the crime ring. We also learn that Baby is only working for him to pay off a debt and has just one more job. Because it’s always just one more job. Anyway, we meet Joe for the first time, we meet Debora (Lily James) the love interest, and we meet the three members of the first crew – Buddy (Jon Hamm), Buddy’s girlfriend/wife Darling (Eiza Gonzalez), and Griff (Jon Bernthal). We also learn that Doc never uses the same people for a crew except Baby, which is important to remember because the third job is made up completely of people he’s used before. In fact, the only change is Bats (Jamie Foxx) for Griff. You could explain this inconsistency away as he never uses the same crew (not people) twice, but that’s pretty weak. We’ll come back to Doc and his inconsistencies in a moment, but I do want to mention Griff.
After completing the heist, Griff is pissed off at Baby for reasons that defy any kind of logic and seem to revolve around trust. Baby just performed his job perfectly, they scored a pile of money, and this guy is just short of shooting Baby in the face. Why? Even accepting some dudes are just assholes, it makes no sense for this guy to lose his shit after the successful robbery. Then, he finishes his rant up with “someday you’re going to have to get blood on your hands,” which is a weird thing to say because every heist needs a wheel-man. I think the whole point of this was to set up the idea (unconfirmed) that Doc has Griff killed shortly thereafter, but the rant came out of nowhere and the timing was absurd. This brings us to Doc and the second act.
I never use the same crew twice, except when I do.
Doc is presented as a meticulous planner who has all of the angles covered and a ruthless boss who you do not cross. He’s also presented as a man of his word who almost immediately goes back on his word. After Baby completes the second heist (in the film), he’s paid off his debt and he walks away. About a week goes by and Doc shows up at Baby and Debora’s date and threatens Baby if he turns down driving in Doc’s next heist. This is literally Doc’s next job after Baby’s last heist. This is one of several missed opportunities in the movie, but again, a typical movie-crime-boss move. It would have been so much better if a couple of months had gone by (thus cementing Baby and Debora’s relationship, which jumps to “I love you” with almost no work to get there) and Doc had come back telling Baby he needed him because his new drivers had cost him jobs and crews, not just because he’s a typical movie crime boss.
There’s also the question of why Doc would hire loose cannons like Bats and Griff other than because the script called for loose cannons. The third (and final) heist involves robbing a post office (they’re stealing blank money orders) and the second act sets it all up. Bats, Buddy, and Darling must go to an arms dealer to purchase clean weapons and Bats ends up shooting the dealers because they are cops. When they return to Doc, he’s pissed and says he knows they were cops because he bought them. Alright, stop for a second. Bats is obviously a lunatic and Doc emphasizes it’s his business to know everything about his crews. Yet, Doc doesn’t know that one of his cops busted Bats years earlier, then fails to mention to any of the crew that the dealers are cops, especially the lunatic who leaves a trail of corpses wherever he goes? For such a details guy, Doc sure left a lot of easy things to chance there.
Finally, we get to the third act, which is almost a complete breakdown in storytelling. To start with, after the arms sale ended in a bloodbath, Doc wants to call off the job, but allows it to go on based on a vote. Really? I mean, really? We saw him casually re-position a body in the trunk of a car so the hatch would shut all the way and we’re supposed to believe he’d let Bats live, let alone green light a job based on democracy? No. Plus, here’s Baby’s out without having to betray anyone. Earlier, he slipped Debora a note to meet him at 2:00am that morning and they would drive away from all this. All he has to do is vote no on the heist and he’s golden. But then the movie would be over, so yay-vote it is.
After the heist goes way sideways, Buddy wants to kill Baby. Earlier in the film, there’s a great scene where Bats is harassing Baby and Buddy defends Baby after they swap wheel man stories. Based on that setup, you would expect the climax of the film to be Baby and Buddy in the best chase scene of the decade. However, the two simply end up smashing cars against each other in a parking garage. No, no, no, no. This is not what a 97% rated movie ends with, this is what Die Hard 8 ends with. To top it all off, Doc lets Baby go because Baby is in love. NO, NO, NO, NO. This is not how a heist movie ends, this is how a Disney princess movie ends.
I’m okay with you fucking me if it’s for love. Wait, that didn’t come out right.
In a nutshell, this movie is a typical, decent action-heist flick brought up a couple of pegs by style points. I haven’t the slightest idea why there is so much praise for this movie other than “not another goddamn Transformers movie.” I guess it makes sense if people really like Edgar Wright movies or Lily James in a sexy diner outfit, but you have to really squint to make that equal 97%. Now, I’m terrified of what I’ll think about Get Out and its 275/277 positive critics reviews.
Rating: Ask for two dollars back and a giant grain of salt.