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dir-scr Edgar Wright
prd Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nira Park
with Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Bernthal, CJ Jones, Flea, Lanny Joon, Sky Ferreira, Lance Palmer
release US/UK 28.Jun.17
17/US Sony 1h53
Shut up and drive: Foxx and Elgort
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Edgar Wright's exhilarating filmmaking style makes this swaggering action thriller a lot more fun than it should be. It's inventively designed as a big movie musical in which all of the songs are playing in the background with the action set-pieces choreographed like dance numbers, including several raucous car chases. On the other hand, the outlines of the characters and plot are never quite filled in.
A young guy who doesn't talk much, Baby (Elgort) prefers to hide behind sunglasses and earbuds. This is partly because he was raised by a deaf foster dad (Jones) after his parents (Ferreira and Palmer) died. An expert driver, Baby is also in debt to Doc (Spacey), who plans elaborate heists with a rotating gang of thugs including the trigger-happy Bats (Foxx) and the loved-up Buddy and Darling (Hamm and Gonzalez). Then just as Baby falls for diner waitress Debora (James), Doc coerces him into doing one more job.
As in Guardians of the Galaxy, the film sways to the tunes playing on Baby's iPod with clever touches at every turn, from elaborately long takes to the fact that everything happens right to the beat, including the gunshots. Wright never lets the pace flag, keeping things surging forward as the mayhem gathers momentum. And it's clear that even the super-efficient Baby is heading into some serious danger, surrounded by lowlife thugs who don't care about him. So he sees Debora as a lifeline.
Constant super-cool touches make the characters vivid and colourful, even if they're ultimately rather simplistic. Elgort's Baby has the most emotional resonance, although it doesn't run very deep. He's a likeable wounded pup in need of a break, but even though he has a good soul he's capable of the same violence as the people around him. The surrounding cast essentially exist in his orbit, playing single-layer figures who push him in one way or another. In this sense, Foxx is the scene-stealer simply because Bats is so unpredictable.
Wright used even more flamboyant filmmaking skills in his 2010 hit Scott Pilgrim vs the World, and this film will appeal to the same audience. But while this story is more focussed and engaging, the people and situations remain secondary to the kinetic cinematic pyrotechnics. It's a lot of fun to watch, with several breathtaking moments along the way. But nothing about this film grabs hold in a meaningful way, which leaves it as a simple little tale told with a lot of style.
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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