Tag Archives: Jon Bernthal

BABY DRIVER

“Edgar Wright seeks to deliver a film that’s hip, cool, and intense, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek comedic overtones.”

Wayward Wolf.

Observing Baby (Ansel Elgort) tapping, nodding and air-drumming his way through life is in some ways like staring in a mirror. Granted, I certainly can’t do the quiff these days, and I’m probably double the lad’s age and should know better, but still to this day I find it physically almost impossible to rein in an array of rhythmic beats and drum-fills that I can’t help but perform on desks and dashboards – or any hard surfaces for that matter – when listening to my music of choice – much to the chagrin of those around me, I suspect.

Whilst I don’t imagine I was the primary influence for director Edgar Wright’s  entertaining Baby Driver, the film’s hero is similarly afflicted by such sonically-triggered ‘ticks’. With earphones permanently lodged in earholes, he taps and struts his way through each passing day, invigorated by his own diverse musical soundtrack of life.

Having been in a car accident as a child, and having lost both of his parents as a result, Baby’s decision to be ‘plugged-in’ permanently to his collection of i-Pods, is as much for medical reasons as anything else. An attempt to drown out the annoying tinnitus that has since plagued him.

Indebted financially to a rather sinister gang boss, Doc (Kevin Spacey), Baby has been forced to drive getaway cars for him on a variety of bank heists. His skills behind the wheel are something to behold, and whilst Doc insists on changing the lineup for each job that he masterminds, the one constant every time is his driver, Baby.

Encouraged to do so by his deaf and crippled foster father, and with a newly-found sweetheart on the scene – Debora (Lily James) – Baby is determined to finally distance himself from this life of crime that he so reluctantly leads, but even once his debt to Doc has been repaid in full, it’s clear that his overlord is not willing to let him walk away that easily.

Drastic situations then, call for drastic measures…

As mentioned previously, Baby Driver is very definitely an entertaining piece. Edgar Wright seeks to deliver a film that’s hip, cool, and intense, with plenty of tongue-in-cheek comedic overtones. All of this he achieves, to an extent, through his use of a number of sweetly choreographed, intelligently-shot high-octane car chases and mass shoot-outs, not to mention a sharp and witty script to accompany. This is after all a director that knows comedy, both through his previous film work, and more historically having been involved with the show that spawned the marvellous Bobby Chariot – namely Alexei Sayle’s Merry-Go-Round – and the critically-acclaimed, and quite frankly tremendous, Spaced.

As for the casting, Baby Driver hits the mark. Elgort is great as something of a brooding James Dean-esque hero, Spacey is suitably menacing as the gang boss, whilst Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal and Jon Hamm each put in convincing turns as an assortment of grizzled, shotgun-wielding ne’er-do-wells.

If there are criticisms to be made, it’s perhaps noticeable that Baby Driver does have a tendency to flag a little in its second half, owing to its propensity for over-indulgence in fairly unnecessary dialogue. This comes at the expense of momentum, of which there is great abundance until that point. Not only this, but the film’s concluding chapter does feel a little forced and ill-thought-out; ultimately therefore a tad unconvincing.

In the grand scheme of things though, these are minor complaints, and shouldn’t detract too much from a film whose ability to entertain and thrill far outweighs any negatives we may choose to throw at it.

Whilst maybe not of the same vintage as some of his previous outings – think Shaun of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, or even World’s End for that matter – Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is however great fun, and another worthy feather in the cap for a director who continues to build up a quality and consistently enjoyable body of work.

Long may it continue.

 

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FILM REVIEW: Me and Earl and the dying girl

If there’s one thing that the passing of time has taught me, and this is very much flying in the face of popular opinion and accepted wisdom, it’s to never trust my first impression of anything…
The opening scenes from Me and Earl and the dying girl (MEDG) briefly reminded me of the opening exchanges from another ‘kooky’ indie offering, Juno, and much like my early reaction to Juno, I feared my toes may never fully uncurl again.
I don’t do ‘kooky’ well.
Smart-ass kids with their overly world-savvy, sharp and deeply unrealistic dialogue. It just doesn’t sit well.
MEDG falls into this category, at least initially. Split into sections, each pre-empted with an on-screen ‘the part where {such and such happens}…’ text moniker, I’m suddenly watching Friends again and although Friends was admittedly well written and witty, there were aspects of its overall aura that, in the words of Friends’ own Joey Tribbiani, “made me want to rip my own arm off and hit myself with it.”
But, in the spirit of humble pie and with arms thrown aloft, conceding defeat, this is the part where I give in to the kookiness and reveal that MEDG is actually a slick, emotional and above all very poignant piece of film making; a film that has stayed with me long since the final credits rolled.
Greg (Thomas Mann) is our lead; all gangly awkwardness and self deprecation, coasting through life, shying away from interaction, genuine friendship and going to great lengths  to ensure that he remains on the path of least resistance in whatever he does. A sort of survival for the relatively anonymous.
On hearing that one of the pupils at Greg’s school, Rachel, has been diagnosed with cancer, Greg’s mother and  ‘man of the world’ father (Nick Offerman) agree that Greg, despite his reluctance to do so, should spend some time with her.
Rachel (a perfect casting for Olivia Locke), if nothing else, is surprisingly receptive of Greg’s own particular brand of clumsy, nerdish humour, perhaps offering a welcome distraction to her own problems, and despite a most inauspicious of starts, a hesitant yet tender friendship somehow begins to blossom.
Earl (RJ Cyler) is, in Greg’s own words, not his friend but his his ‘co-worker’; a straight talking kind of fella whose no nonsense approach to things often shakes Greg from his insular existence, forcing him to face up to life and his own responsibilities within it. They’re an unlikely, seemingly mismatched pairing, but through their appreciation of cult and classic movies, and more importantly their own kooky (there’s that word again) B-movie re-imagining of them, each seems to get what they need from the other in their partnership.
Together they share their creative exploits with Rachel and importantly, she seems to ‘get’ the pair of them.
In light of Rachel’s worsening health, it’s perhaps left to Greg’s tutor, Mr McCarthy, (Jon Bernthal of The Walking Dead fame), to impart the film’s core message, pointing out to Greg that sometimes it’s often only after someone’s gone that we truly learn about them, who they were and crucially, how they’ve shaped and will continue to shape our own lives, helping us to overcome our inadequacies and to become the person that we have the potential to be.
Although Greg is quick to dismiss this as some kind of unnecessary life lesson, these are words that might prove to be strangely prophetic.
Director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon judges the mood of MEDG superbly. It’s sweet, not saccharine, sad, yet not overly melancholic and amusing yet never really resorting to cheap laughs.
Enhanced by an excellent, Brian Eno-infused and predictably indie soundtrack, you could say that MEDG strikes just the right balance, exuding both warmth and charm and I suspect a longevity that perhaps wouldn’t be expected from a film within the ‘teen’ genre.
A kooky, indie gem.