MOVIE REVIEW: Baby Driver is fast and merciless
VIN Diesel's petrolheads might be furious, but Kevin Spacey's gang is almost entirely made up of violent sociopaths.
The trailer for Baby Driver suggests a fun, slick heist flick in the wink-wink, nod-nod tradition of Ocean's Eleven, augmented by a series of spectacular vehicular stunts.
But the film itself, written and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World), is a good deal more punishing than that.
Even with the eponymous, fresh-faced driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) at the wheel, this is a pedal-to-the-metal ride without shock absorbers.
Spacey lends his crime boss, Doc, a wry, sardonic edge (representing yet another variation on Francis Underwood, the ruthless congressman he plays in House of Cards). There's an oily charisma to Jon Hamm's Buddy, an armed robber who works in partnership with his fatally femme girlfriend Darling (Eliza Gonzalez).
Jamie Foxx does nasty well. He plays bad-to-the-bone robber Bats as a man with both a chip on his shoulder and a death wish.
Baby, of course, is the odd one out.
Due to some youthful misdemeanours - during which the troubled orphan unwittingly boosted Doc's car - he has been indentured to the crime boss for most of his formative years.
Baby is also a bit of a misfit in the everyday world, which he experiences through a personalised soundtrack on multiple iPods.
Obsessive, damaged, withdrawn, Baby uses music to drown out the literal and figurative white noise that plays 24/7 in his head. (He suffers from tinnitus as a result of a car accident in his childhood.)
The gifted getaway driver can't leave a police car in his dust until he has the right beat (you can just hear the ka-ching of the cross-promotional cash registers here). When he hits play, nobody can catch him.
After successfully pulling off one last job for Doc, Baby finally clears his debts. At the urging of his ageing foster Dad (CJ Jones), he gets a job as a pizza delivery driver and makes plans for a fresh start with the similarly singular waitress Debora (Lily James) who quickly proves to be his soulmate.
Doc, however, isn't about to let his "lucky charm" get away so easily.
Baby's desperate attempts to extricate himself from an impossible situation result in a high body count and a good deal of collateral damage - in a world as brutal as this, no one gets off scot-free, not even the bystanders.
Wright doesn't glamorise the violence - this is an ugly world in which innocent people die and the perpetrators themselves have limited life spans - but his movie does revel in it.
And after eating exhaust fumes for the best part of two hours, this moviegoer left feeling decidedly queasy.
Baby Driver opens in cinemas tomorrow.
Stars: Ansel Elgort, Jon Hamm, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx.
Director: Edgar Wright
Rating: MA 15+
Verdict: 2.5 stars