Have you ever wanted to dance to a crime? Boogie to a burglary? Shimmy to a shooting? Well, now you can, as director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) has finally married his two main obsessions – lovingly crafted playlists and over-choreographed fight scenes – to create Baby Driver, a sort of heist musical. Not in a prancing, finger-snapping West Side Story kind of way, but in a cool way. Imagine Drive, only replace a brooding, flippantly violent Ryan Gosling with a pudgy-faced, big-hearted music nerd.
Redeeming himself from teenage tripe like The Fault in Our Stars and Divergent, Ansel Elgort stars as Baby, a getaway driver that suffers from tinnitus following the tragic car accident that killed both of his parents. He listens to music constantly to drown it out, producing a series of iPods to suit different crime jobs. Before you can say “get Spotify”, it’s actually just an adorable anachronism in a film filled with them.
All the heist staples are here, rubbery masks, the duffel bags stuffed with banknotes, the infantile nicknames for dangerous criminals. But this is a film you need to hear to really believe. Written down, it sounds as if it could be easy to detach yourself from another story about a good guy in a bad situation, the kind of guy who just wants to run away with the cute waitress from the diner and leave it all behind.
But the music adds an interactive element. Rather than watching the action, you’ll find your hand is tapping away on the arm the chair, your feet jiggling on the spot in response to the action on screen.
Getting into the rhythm of a car chase or a fist fight is the next best thing to being there. A shoot out soundtracked to “Tequila” is simultaneously hilarious and exhilarating. Tarantino is undoubtedly an influence, but here the music is almost a character in its own right, pushed front and centre rather than simply used as an ironic overtone.
Kevin Spacey is sparingly used as crime boss Doc, but it only means you listen harder to his orders when they come. Jamie Foxx is an unfortunate, angry black man stereotype as fellow crook Bats, and the plot does spin around wildly in the last 15 minutes, desperately searching for a way to top the film’s core concept.
And it never quite does, but that’s only because the concept is so sound. The unlikely marriage of music and crime hasn’t just elevated a standard heist into something better, it’s made Baby Driver into the runaway hit of the summer.