There is no doubt that Edgar Wright is an impressive filmmaker. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are great, and even though it took a couple of watches, I’ve come to like The World’s End more than I did after my first watch. Maybe his newest film, Baby Driver, will be in that category, but I’m not so sure.
Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver, and he’s really good at it. Doc (Kevin Spacey) is a criminal mastermind who caught Baby trying to steal his car, and now Baby is working for him until he’s paid off his debt. Doc doesn’t like using the same crew multiple times, but he sticks with Baby as his getaway driver, and he hasn’t been let down yet. Now, Baby has just about paid off his debt and wants to go legitimate. He also wants to spend time with his new girlfriend, Deborah (Lily James). But that’s not what Doc wants.
The movie has an amazing opening sequence. It’s The Driver (or Drive if you haven’t seen the 1978 Walter Hill film) meets La La Land. It’s an intense, fast-paced, tightly-cut getaway expertly set to music, and it seems like the whole movie is going to be some kind of action dance movie. Baby has chronic tinnitus from a car accident he was in as a child, so he’s constantly playing music to drown out the ringing in his ears, and everything he does is in time with the music. But the movie seems to abandon that concept pretty quickly, and we’re left with a film that has a lot of music in it, but the characters aren’t choreographed so much, and there’s just a lot of walking and talking and not so much driving. One might even say that the movie actually gets pretty boring at times while we’re waiting for any kind of action that might live up to what we’ve come to expect from the opening sequence.
There are a couple more chase scenes in the film, but they don’t come close to what we got in the opening sequence. There’s one where he’s driving a pickup truck that just feels weird because it just turns into a shootout without a lot of context for who the other guy is (I guess he’s just one of those “good guy with a gun” types you hear so much about, but it feels really unnatural). It does feel like it’s going to get good at the very end of the movie, but that really fizzles, too, and then we’re left with a fairly unnecessary epilogue that doesn’t seem to serve much purpose.
The film is also surprisingly light on comedy for an Edgar Wright movie. There are a couple of funny moments (although apparently one of the funniest is spoiled in the trailer; I can’t confirm because I never, ever watch movie trailers), but most of the time it just doesn’t make much attempt at comedy. This is disappointing because the long stretches without action really need something to punch them up.
I definitely wouldn’t call Baby Driver bad. It’s fine. It just doesn’t live up to its incredible opening sequence, and it doesn’t live up to what we’ve come to expect from Edgar Wright. So when you see this, it’s probably not a bad idea to go in with lower expectations.