Thursday, April 26 , 2018, 9:34 am | Overcast with Haze 56º


Cinema in Focus: ‘Baby Driver’

3 Stars — Troubling

Baby Driver is a wild ride, pumping up the adrenaline and cruising at high speed on a fast track reminiscent of a Disneyland adventure.

It is also a romantic interlude with two of today’s great young stars: Ansel Elgort as the cute, baby-faced “Baby” and Lily James, fresh off of Downton Abbey as “Debora.” Their romance is sandwiched between a series of brutal murders, robberies and general mayhem.

Baby is a talented get-away driver held financially captive by an ice-cool mob boss named Doc (Kevin Spacey). We don’t fully know what Doc has on Baby, but there is a tenuous trust between them, sort of like a charming circus performer playing with a viper, trusting that he won’t get bitten and die a horrible death.

Baby’s job is to drive fantastically after whatever heist Doc sets up and with whomever Doc puts into the job. Rarely are the same people or team of thieves put together, and most of them have a hard time understanding why Doc trusts this “kid,” who is somewhat mute and drives like a maniac.

The brood of vipers that Doc hires to carry out his robberies includes, among others, Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx). This cesspool of mob guns-for-hire is an evil stew of amoral animals with no empathy for anyone. If you are at all squeamish about gratuitous violence, then stay clear of this movie.

So what gives this film so much popular appeal? First of all, it has some of the best road-race scenes in recent years. Second, Baby is a sexy hunk who heats up the screen, and third, Baby has some redeeming qualities that we eventually get to know. Not enough to make this a great moral lesson, but enough to cause you to think about the things that lie beneath the surface of another person.

Baby witnessed the death of his parents behind the wheel of their family car while his parents were distracted by an argument that they were having. This led him to become a remarkable stunt driver capable of steering himself through the most dangerous road conditions.

It also left him suffering from tinnitus, causing him to always have a ringing in his ears, which he learned to drown out by listening to music through earbuds. The earbuds and dark glasses gave Baby his sexy, cool demeanor.

The plot wanders into a variety of places, including almost getting Debora, Baby’s new love interest, killed on one of his jobs. Baby is conflicted with flashbacks to his parents’ own death and has no love for the indiscriminate and valueless killing of innocent people that seem common to Doc’s other hired thugs.

Baby wants out, and the core of the story is centered on how he plans to do it.

There is no escaping the fact that Baby has created a litany of offenses that are subject to criminal prosecution. Nevertheless, he has a bunch of defenders along the way who carry him through the consequences of his actions and his inevitable incarceration. The only redeeming conclusion is that he gets the girl in the end, and he escapes the clutches of his mob friends, all of whom meet their maker.

This isn’t necessarily a story about redemption, but there are some redeeming qualities to its conclusion. Unfortunately, you have to sit through both the exciting chase scenes as well as the grueling death scenes to get there, leaving you feeling unsettled when the credits finally roll.


» What would you do if you found yourself enslaved like Baby? Would you participate in the criminal behavior or not?

» When you watch the cruel violence of this film, what do you think this does to you? Have you become desensitized to the violence or increasingly appalled at it?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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