Everyone’s got a nickname in this film – even a character called Monica has a moniker. There’s a guy called Bats (Jamie Foxx), a boss called Doc (Kevin Spacey) – and a driver called Baby.
That’s the sort of level we’re on, a demi-monde of Tarantino banter and po-mo action thrills, a car chase movie that’s gobbled a lot of other car chase movies and is trying to burn them at the lights.
Edgar Wright, to his credit, conducts some decent stunts as getaway specialist Baby (fresh-faced Ansel Elgort) pilots away his bank robber criminal colleagues, leaving the ever-hapless Atlanta police in heaps (why do the cops always have such bad drivers?).
Baby’s thing, apart from being called Baby, is music, which he needs to be playing constantly on his collection of iPods to drown out his tinnitus condition, an affliction inherited in a childhood car accident back to which we flash quite often, in lieu of character development.
Baby’s in hock to Doc, paying off a debt which will be all square once he’s done this “one last job”. Then, thinks Baby, he’ll be free to drive off into the sunset with the diner waitress of his dreams, a goofily grinning gal called Debora (Lily James).
He’s fallen in love with her, because she likes music too and because they went to a laundromat and bright clothes danced in the tumbling machines behind them (for all the stunts and screeching, this is the film’s best scene by miles).
Look, this film’s fun but it tries a touch too hard to be cool, an eager puppy of a movie that wants to play with the big boys. There’s a good joke about Mike Myers Halloween masks that Quentin would be proud of, but overall I found it a bit joyless. It never got the thrill factor throbbing through me.
Because the characters have names and banter instead of, you know, characters, there’s nothing to really feel. Even Baby has ticks, habits and a sad flashback story rather than a personality. He’s a bit annoying, really, sliding about all over the place just to make his deaf, crippled, black foster father some peanut butter sandwiches.
So, no, I didn’t give enough of a shit about Baby. He’s cute, sweet even, but he’s not sexy. He’s no Steve McQueen. Who wants a hero to be sweet? His music’s a bit eclectic for me, too, and I couldn’t quite get the connection between the music and the action other than it makes for a good soundtrack. Baby needs to be less of a blank canvas. Give him some taste, give him some decent clothes and some balls. Give him individuality, give him a jacket, or a cool car at least. He’s no icon. You can’t be an icon when you’re got those white iPod earphones dangling around. They’re the icon, not you.
You’ll enjoy Baby Driver, I’m sure. After all, cars, girls and music, that’s what films are for, isn’t it? But I can’t help myself wanting just that little bit more.