High-speed car chases, with tires smoking.
Automatic weapons, firing furiously.
Young lovers, smiling shyly.
Eh, we’ve seen it all a million times before.
No we haven’t.
Not the way it’s all put together in “Baby Driver.”
The movie lays it out hot and fast. Mixes it up with colors bright and stylish. Sets it to pulsing music that’s tightly wedded to the action.
Slams it into gear. Stomps on the gas. Cranks up the volume. And away it goes, baby, goes, goes, goes.
The picture is a trip. It’s the most fun you’ll likely have at the movies this summer.
That’s because writer-director Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead,” “The World’s End”) hasn’t so much reimagined all these familiar action-movie tropes as he’s reinvigorated them. He invests them with such verve that it makes everything old seem new again. It’s as though we’re seeing all this stuff for the first time.
And that’s the sign of a great director. Take the familiar, and make it fresh and vital.
Another trait of a great director: inspire the cast to give great performances.
The stars of “Baby Driver” — Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx — seem like they’re acting as though their very lives depended on it, and are enjoying the hell out of the experience.
Spacey, cast as the boss of a gang of bank robbers, is playing his most Kevin Spacey character ever: maximally ruthless, bulletproof in his self confidence and haughtily smart.
Foxx is playing a psychopathic killer who’s at least as ruthless as Spacey’s character, but while Spacey’s crook epitomizes cold-steel chilliness, Foxx’s is white hot in his murderousness.
Hamm, playing another gang member, is the most intellectual of the bunch, but has a killer’s temperament as well.
James practically glows with warmth and innocence as the waitress sweetheart of the movie’s title character, who is played by Elgort. And he is a revelation.
Named Baby, his character is an icon of cool and mystery. He’s the getaway driver of Spacey’s little criminal enterprise, eyes hidden behind shades, face expressionless most of the time. And he’s plugged into tunes on a variety of iPods, earbuds always in place.
Tunes such as “Tequila,” “Radar Love” and the jagged, ragged “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion flow into his ears, focusing him and propelling him through his feats of daredevil driving.
His music cancels out his tinnitus, the ever-present ringing in his ears caused by a terrible car crash when he was a young boy that killed his mother and father and left him with facial scars that are the visual symbols of his inner trauma.
He’s a kid among crooks, doing what he can to distance himself from the feral gang members.
With his music amped up, his foot heavy on the accelerator and his hand dexterous on the gearshift lever, he sends a cop-catcher bright red Subaru into screeching, four-wheel-drifting gymnastics in the very first scene that take the breath away. The “Fast and Furious” crowd has nothing on this kid.
Elgort, previously known until now for his work in “The Fault in Our Stars” brings a reserved sweetness and athleticism to the role that makes Baby very engaging. And when he hit the gas “Baby Driver” jumps into hyperdrive.
Buckle up, audience. You’re in for the ride of a lifetime.
☆☆☆☆ ½ stars out of 5
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.
Director: Edgar Wright
Running time: 1:53
Rated: R for violence and language throughout.