"Baby Driver" is showy, cliché-ridden and irritatingly self-aware. It's like that yappy drama society kid at college who is so consciously trying to act cool by breaking into song, dancing around chairs, drumming on desks and spitting jokey one-liners with a hand pistol flourish....the kind of person a cynical SOB like me just wants to punch in the throat.
The central premise is about a young, good-at-heart kid forced into a life of crime in order to pay off a debt. The annoyingly slick, Abercrombie-faced "Baby" is not only the fastest getaway driver in Atlanta, we later find out he's also a self-taught music producer, dancer and talented free-runner...are you rolling your eyes yet?
The main mechanic, so lauded by critics, is that everything in the film revolves around music, from the editing to the dialogue. Since Baby is constantly plugged into his i-pod (so, we are told, to drown out tinnitus from a car accident which killed his parents), the film essentially plays like one giant music video, with nearly every gunshot, tire screech and sassy put down edited meticulously with the beats or riffs of whatever track is playing during the sequence.
Unfortunately the songs didn't make the hackneyed screenplay that much more interesting. While there are some splendid car chase sequences (too few in my book), one must endure cringey moments of Baby miming and dancing to James Brown, dull characters waxing poetic about song lyrics and saying cliché bull$hit like "Sometimes all I want to do is head west on the 20 in a car I can't afford with a plan I don't have". Everyone in the film is pretty, none of the gangsters really look like gangsters, least of all the Latina 'Darling', who can't even hold a gun convincingly and is just there to show cleavage and lick her lips at camera.
Imagine the most indulgent ideas from Guy Ritchie and Tarantino's trash bin channeled through a Justin Bieber video. Less style and even less substance.
There are no doubt people who will love it for being a showy piece of nonsense, and there is some entertaining, high impact action, but it's far from the genius some critics are praising it as. I saw it with a group of youngish people who all agreed it wasn't as good as they'd hoped and that some bits were just plain daft.
Leave your brain at home and perhaps you'll be rewarded...