Baby Driver,” filmed in and set in Atlanta, roars into theaters Wednesday.
It stars Ansel Elgort in the title role as a hot shot behind the wheel. Baby made the mistake of ripping off a notorious crime boss, Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, before he was technically old enough to drive. The brazen boost turned out to be a job interview of sorts, and now Baby is in hock to Doc as his permanent “good luck charm,” the driver able to make any getaway.
It’s hard to characterize exactly what the genre is — it’s an action thriller with comedic moments, but then it’s also sort of a musical. When you see it for yourself, here are some highlights to look out for.
1. The music. Writer-director Edgar Wright actually was inspired by a song, “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion.
‘This would make a great car chase,” he remembers thinking, according to the movie’s production notes. “I always wanted to do an action movie that was powered by music.”
The movie’s conceit is Baby was injured as a child and suffers from constant “hum in the drum,” as Doc puts it, as a result. To drown out the din, Baby blasts a constant soundtrack, which propels his nifty getaway moves. We predict the soundtrack is going to be as big a hit as the film.
2. The dialogue. “The music drove the script, which is very much how this movie works,” Elgort said in the production notes. “When you read it, you could feel the rhythm of the scenes already.” The slick and snappy back-and-forth between characters feels almost like a spoken word performance at times.
3. The car chases. Yeah, yeah, you’ve seen plenty of movies where cars zoom around and occasionally crash into each other. (See the eight “Fast and Furious” films, three of which were filmed in Atlanta, for reference.)
But the auto action in “Baby Driver” is unique. The production shut down four highways and 40 surface streets (not at the same time, mercifully) and made the most of the opportunity. “We do some serious drifting in a parking structure in downtown Atlanta,” choreographer Ryan Heffington said. “There’s a lot of action done in this car, some incredible stuff.”
Jon Hamm, who plays a member of Doc’s bank robbery crew, told us during an interview that filming the car chase scenes was a blast: “Any time you’re in a car going 80 miles per hour going sideways, it’s fun!”
4. The Atlanta locations. Lots of movies film here, but “Baby Driver” most definitely is set here. The movie deliberately features lots of local landmarks such as the Breen Smith ad agency, which has since merged with Chemistry and uses that name.
“We watched it out the window,” during filming, agency president Tim Smith said. “We were happy to be in there as prominently as (the logo) was.”
5. The AJC. Not to make this about ourselves, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution plays a cameo role.
Our marketing folks worked with the studio to produce a mocked-up AJC that Baby reads in an early scene, and a particularly daring move was filmed at our old digs in downtown Atlanta, the paper’s former loading docks area at 72 Marietta St., which now houses Gallery 72 and the city of Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management.
It was great to see the old home place on the big screen.