As sharply executed as a hairpin turn, “Baby Driver” is a crackling-good ride, one that organically weaves music and humor into a slick showcase for its cast. Despite a few potholes toward the end, writer-director Edgar Wright’s stylish thriller consistently clicks on all cylinders.
Ansel Elgort (“Divergent”) stars as the nicknamed Baby, a hell-on-wheels driver working with a rotating group of heist artists presided over by the oily Doc (Kevin Spacey), to whom Baby is working off an unknown debt.
The movie opens with a demonstration of Baby’s prowess, evading cops in a sequence briskly choreographed to the music that the character plays nonstop, his way of equalizing a ringing sound that haunts him from an earlier accident. While there are only so many ways to shoot a car chase, Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) has somehow managed to breathe new life into it through the combination of sight and sound, as the music perfectly punctuates every lightning-fast edit.
Baby quickly falls for an attractive waitress (“Downton Abbey’s” Lily James), although as they would say in the old noir-ish gangster movies that “Baby Driver” in many ways resembles, dames and this line of work don’t mix. So he’s putting not only his life at risk but possibly hers after agreeing to what he hopes will be one last job, teaming him with a mercurial trio of thieves played by Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eiza Gonzalez (who plays the Salma Hayek role in the series version of “From Dusk til Dawn”).
Spacey’s presence is instructive, since among modern films, the caper qualities bring to mind “The Usual Suspects.” Yet the way Wright incorporates the song score into the action helps “Baby Driver” bound along to its own fresh, percussive beat.
The movie provides rich characters for its stars, both familiar and relatively new. Elgort brings a sense of mystery to Baby – starting with whether this youthful-looking lad is really up to swimming with sharks – and the romance with James is sweetly believable, even with its breakneck pace. Hamm and Foxx, meanwhile, sink their teeth into roles fueled by unpredictability and menace, but quirkiness as well.
As for the aforementioned potholes, the movie does labor a bit in its final laps as Wright seeks to prolong the tension, but not in any significant way. Indeed, by that point “Baby Driver” has built up enough of a head of steam and goodwill to basically coast across the finish line, earning the checkered flag as one of this summer’s most finely tuned big-screen vehicles.
“Baby Driver” opens in the U.S. on June 28. It’s rated R.