Monday, July 3, 2017

License to Drive

Like many of you, I've been a big fan of British director Edgar Wright ever since his breakthrough zomedy hit ‘Shaun of the Dead’ back in 2004.  His two follow-ups in the so-called “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,” the buddy-cop shoot-em’-up action-comedy ‘Hot Fuzz’ (2007) and end-of-the-world bodysnatcher apocalyptic comedy ‘The World’s End’ (2013) were also great, even if SOTD is still considered to be the best among them.  Likewise, his movie adaptation of the graphic novel ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World' (2010) was brilliant if underappreciated.  I was therefore disappointed when he was attached to direct the ‘Ant-Man’ movie, then abruptly left due to “creative differences.”  No matter, because as his latest film ‘Baby Driver’ has shown, the 43-year old Wright is better off writing original material than having his quirky genius crimped by a major studio like Marvel anyway.
Set in Atlanta (like last year’s ‘Triple 9’ reviewed here: 999), BD dispensed with Wright’s long-time British partners-in-crime Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in favor of a much more American cast boasting some major league talent in the forms of Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx and a couple of Jon’s (Hamm and Bernthal).  The film also features two young newcomers in baby-faced Ansel Elgort and the hot-to-trot Eiza González and gave them a chance to shine, the former as a reluctant getaway driver with the mad skills and cool nerves of a NASCAR driver and the latter as the saucy and spicy Latin “Bonnie” to Jon Hamm’s Clyde.
While BD’s plot isn’t exactly new being a variation of the “decent fellow who wants to leave his life of crime behind but finds it easier said than done” theme, Wright managed to give it a fresh spin with its unique protagonist and colorful cast of criminals.  In many ways this movie is also Wright's homage to heist movies, rom-coms and funky soul music from the 60's and 70's.  Not only does BD work as an entertaining cops-and-robbers flick but also a romance with plenty of heart and soul (music), as Wright proves once again that he has a singular talent for blending comedy with humanity and a healthy dose of gratuitous R-rated violence.  I love it.

Grade: A


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