Haunted by flashbacks of his mother’s sudden death in a car accident which, as a backseat passenger, left him with a constant, high-pitched ringing in his ears, the titular and tinnitus-stricken Baby aka Miles (Ansel Elgort) tries to outrun his demons by outrunning the cops as a getaway driver for the deadpan criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey in sparkling form).
To block out the pain and bolster his confidence for the increasingly hair-raising high-speed car chases, each of which is supposed to be his last in order to settle a debt with Doc, he takes Shakespeare’s “If music be the food of love, play on” as his bible and is forever plugged into his product placement iPods from which he pumps up the volume with a variety of toe-tappers ranging from Egyptian Reggae to Harlem Shuffle as well as slushy self-mixes dedicated to his waitress girlfriend Debora (Lily James).
Eventually they come a cropper. They being a rotating team of misfits and hissy fits in the shape of former Wall Street trader-turned-Harvey Wallbanger slammer Buddy (Jon Hamm), his partner in crime and bacchanalia Darling which is a moniker for Monica (Eiza González), Griff by name gruff by nature (Jon Bernthal), the gun-slinging, pun-stinging Bats (Jamie Foxx), Eddie No Nose formerly Eddie Nose (Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers) and the man who “put the Asian into house invasion” J.D. (Lanny Joon).
As I said, they eventually come a cropper. Unlike the film by English writer and director Edgar Wright (who collaborated with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on the so-called Cornetto trilogy of films Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) which is a blast from beginning to end and the best film of the year so far, by far. Nothing comes close to matching let alone surpassing it’s breathless tempo, off-the-wall humour and seductive coolness.
Much of that, of course, is down to the ingenuity of Edgar Wright and his fine cast of A-listers who rise to the occasion with scene-stealing aplomb, particularly Ansel Elgort as Baby whose poker face goes from Brando to Bambi at the drop of a clutch. But credit too to the Oscar-winning composer of Gravity Steven Price, The Matrix trilogy cinematographer Bill Pope and co-editors Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, both of whom worked with Wright on Scott Pilgrim vs The World.
Sure, there’s a lull between the second and final heist when Baby is lured out of retirement by Doc’s threat of “behind the wheel” or “in a wheelchair”. The syncing of songs to set-pieces though impressive and precise becomes repetitive and shallow in a pop video kind of way. And the ending takes a while to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. However, the positives by far outweigh the negatives. By far.
None more so than the blistering opening which counterbalances a tightly-edited car chase with a single tracking shot of Baby shimmying along the sidewalks of downtown Atlanta to Bob & Earl’s aforementioned Harlem Shuffle. As Doc says of a meticulously planned heist: “That’s pretty fucking
Video courtesy of Sony Pictures