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PHIL ON FILM: 'Baby Driver' finds its groove

Posted at 7:19 AM, Jun 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 15:29:24-04

The only bad part of "Baby Driver" is the title.

The innovative musical synthesizes elements of action and heists films to create something unlike any feature film to come before. Every aspect of the film -- from dialogue, to actors' movements to ringing bullets -- is choreographed to the rhythm of a spectacular soundtrack.

The effect could come off as gimmicky, but is subtle enough to fade into the background if you're not on the lookout for it. The result is an awe-inspiring, consistently thrilling movie with scripting and performances to back up its innovative structure.

By taking the wheel of the film, director Edgar Wright shows he's got way more in the tank than crafty cult comedies.

Having built a promising career on films such as "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz," "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" and "The World's End," the director vaults into a higher echelon, proving he's a filmmaker capable of anything.

Ansel Elgort stars as the oddly named title character, a virtuoso getaway driver for a bank robbing gang who drowns out tinnitus by constantly listening to playlists pumping through his old-school iPod. Preferring to remain quiet, he lets his driving speak for him.

Wright and his stunt crew don't disappoint when it comes to car chases, pulling off crowd-pleasing maneuvers worthy of "Fast and Furious" flicks. 

There is also an emotional core, with an awkward father-son dynamic between Baby and his father figure, a tyrannical, manipulative thug played by Kevin Spacey. The core romance, between baby and a waitress (Lily James) isn't quite as compelling, but provides the motivation for the theatrics of Baby trying to bust out of his crime life, vying against ruthless partners played by Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eliza Gonzalez.

Wright is bent on defying expectations at every turn of his wild film, leading to refreshing twists that continually veer the film off in surprising directions. As thrilling as the movie is to watch the first time, when you don't know what's coming, I suspect it will be just as cool on repeat viewings, as you dig into the fabric of the film and catch some hidden stuff you missed the first time.

And "Baby Driver" is a movie you don't just watch. You listen to it and feel the pulse of the rhythms, entering Baby's head as he drives into rubber-burning oblivion.

RATING: 3.5 stars out of 4.