“Baby Driver”

“Baby Driver” will not give you pause. Rather this Edgar Wright action film will give you musical beats to drum through every car maneuver known to man, all seen before. Centered on the back story of our driver, who lost both parents in a car crash at the age of six, we wonder why fast cars fascinate. In a flashback, we see Baby strapped in the backseat watching his parents argue before mom rams into the back of a tractor trailer.

Besides serial car chases and robbery heists, we have a love at first sight complication as our young driver falls for last year’s Cinderella, Lily James, now decked out in waitress garb including her embroidered name, Debora. The music continues and there is some cute repartee about nomenclature in song. Babe suffers from residual tinnitus since his early accident, and the perpetual ear bud lyrics give him relief and give our movie the beat it needs.

Ansel Elgort plays our everyboy, who owes a debt to Doc (Kevin Spacey). He stole Doc’s Mercedes! But Spacey is the criminal mastermind who never enters a bank and never uses the same crew of wastrels twice, but Babe is his getaway driver, par excellence. A grizzled Jon Hamm and an equally thuggish Jaimie Foxx seem to enjoy their farcical characters while looking occasionally embarrassed.

Our setting is Atlanta, Georgia. Our title taken from a Simon and Garfunkel song. Our car initially a supped up, lipstick-red Subaru. British director and writer Edgar Wright has Baby recording his team’s conversations and then making music from the detritus. My favorite being “He Is Slow”. The driving for these series of brazen heists proves the reverse.

The dialogue is as bad as one would expect, “You get feelings in this job- you die.” intones Bats. (Jaimie Foxx). Bats shoots a store clerk for a few boxes of gum.” Tequila” plays like a music video amid gun shots. Elgort dances, runs, glides, and jumps through the Peachtree Mall after playing parking garage gladiator with Jon Hamm. Babe ends up on a bridge with Debora saying, “You don’t belong in this world” as he tosses his keys. Baby ends up in prison, but will be paroled in five years. Debora sends him tons of postcards, and we see them heading West on Route 66 with the radio blaring. Like I said above, nothing gave me pause in this movie except the 98% approval rate from “Rotten Tomatoes”.

“Criminal”

Action films are not my usual draw, but with older actors like Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Kevin Costner – a stellar line-up- I chose a Friday night divergence from identity finding films, bio-pics, and period dramas. I can’t say I was disappointed with “Criminal”.  It is like MI-5 meets slasher flick. Forty-year-old male directors and screenwriters get to put their video-gaming to work in a film they hope will be financially profitable to their ilk. It is entertaining fare.

Three strands develop and keep the intensity strumming. We are in London. A Spanish anarchist has a program code-named “Wormwood”. It can intercept and  re-mastermind any U.S. Military program. The Russians want it. The Americans  are eighteen years into a sci-fi  like brain transfer experiment that can recapture the frontal cortex of one person for another to absorb. One application is for an inoperative operative to have that hard earned knowledge directly moved to the brain of another. Dr. Franks ( Tommy Lee Jones) convinces CIA  Chief ,Gary Oldman, to use a death- row convict to be the recipient of this Intel, language training etc….BAriel Vromen, spy thrillerilly Pope, charmingly played by Ryan  Reynolds, must be replaced and quickly if “Wormwood” is to be shutdown.

Kevin Costner possesses a psychopathic brain.  As Jericho Stewart, Costner will be the first memory transplant receiver. He plays deranged well. His backstory is a sympathetic one.  Violent passion has him left without any empathetic feelings or impulse control after being thrown from a  car as a baby when a man was told he was not his son.

Be  prepared for more on scene brutality on a Tarentino level. Jugulars are ripped open with big crochet-like hooks made  creatively from car trim ( must have been an older chrome-laden car) and heads are pummeled with lamps until brains ooze.

Israeli  Director Ariel Vromen reiterates the major theme: “You hurt me: I hurt you more.”  If this movie tends to question what makes us human it is glancing. Are we more than our memories and mapped neural connections?

Enjoy the cagey moves MI-5 style, endure the operative’s torture in a slaughter house, marvel at the  sci-fi brain transfer of one man’s memories to another’s body.  It takes a female operative to ask, “What are we going to tell his wife?” Remember “Face Off”!  And finally, enjoy Costner’s animal-like ferocity in a diner, a coffee shop ,and in a rare book room. Note how the librarian is treated when she states that there is a que. “There’s a line, and I’m in front of it, Sugar Puss.”, Costner growls. Public servants, beware of spit flying.

The larger threat of Wormwood is held at bay when  Jericho effortlessly recalls  Billy’s home security code. His small daughter and wife provide Jericho’s only glimpse at love. Humor comes in small doses in Jericho’s self-mutterings. When he speaks in effortless French, he  thinks he is  speaking Spanish, when he says ” Cheers”, he mumbles ” who the fuck says ,”cheers”.

The plot continues with the ” Dutchman” ( Michael Pitt) attempting to blackmail the U.S. Government. We question what is truly criminal. Jericho with the partial brain of Billy and his own brawn has the endgame figured out. One of the best shots has his car plunging off a bridge and him rising to the surface. See this film and ask yourself if we are just neural connections.

 

 

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