Baby Driver ★★★½

Viscerally exciting -- up to a point -- heist tragedy is a less self-consciously hip (or at least, hip in a totally different fashion and with mostly different cultural reference points) variation on Drive, made nearly sublime at a few moments by Ryan Heffington's frenetic choreography and Edgar Wright's balletic camera. As with Drive, its (inescapably similar) story doesn't bear much close analysis despite slightly more believable intrusions by the Real World; our soft-spoken, off-kilter hero is a gifted driver with earbuds constantly blaring classic pop and soul hits who regularly runs getaway cars for a sneering gangster (Kevin Spacey) and fits poorly in with the crime world in which Various Circumstances Beyond His Control have trapped him. One day at a diner he falls hard for an enjoyably amoral waitress and they entertain mutually galvanizing fantasies of unplugging and going off the grid together. The conceit of a reluctant crook who overcomes his skittish nature by synchronizing his life to music is delightfully original and cinematic, but as always, Wright simply can't leave well enough alone -- to start with, it isn't enough that his protagonist (the engaging Ansel Elgort, boosted by his terrific chemistry with Lily James, who's good in a pathetically underwritten part) adores music, he has to have a reason for adoring music, the usual screenwriterly bullshit; it's not enough that he displays a welcome vulnerability in comparison to Ryan Gosling's blank slate, there has to be a whole contrived back story to "explain" that vulnerability. And while the film feels lean and splendidly bouyant for about an hour and a half, Wright violently overwhelms it with a third act that swims in excess and about a dozen false endings (and the one he finally goes with is ludicrous Hays Code shit). He deserves kudos for never trivializing the loss of life in which Baby all but directly participates, but the more the film steeps itself in the lurid underworld rather than the sheer physicality of Baby's strange moral universe, the closer it comes to losing sight of its own reason for existing.

I should mention, I laughed really hard two or three times, which has not previously happened to me beyond a chuckle in Wright's films (except, I think, the "coins" line in Scott Pilgrim).

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