Baby Driver is driven by the performances of its talented cast, an eclectically charming mishmash of the criminal underworld — and Baby (Ansel Elgort). The disparity between the unlikely protagonist and the hardened criminals he mixes with is clear from the off-set, but in scenes where Baby is opposite Bats (Jamie Foxx) — a man whose aggressive nonchalance makes the rest of the heist crew look like saints — this disparity is amplified with maximum torque.
Bats stands out in a film full of standout performances, a villain elevated above other villains due to his animalistic impulses and complete disregard for following rules. Introduced 20 minutes into the film, Edgar Wright uses Bats as a pin that bursts the bubble of protection surrounding Baby. When it begins, Baby Driver has the sense of lightheartedness, thanks to choreographed dancing and witty one liners.
This comedic slant sets the film's tone and gives Baby an air of cinematic immunity. Like Wright's earlier protagonists — the Shauns, Nicks, Scotts — Baby seems above any real peril. He's a tinnitus-suffering getaway driver, wrapped in cotton wool by the subtle father figure, Doc, safe from harm. When his mute behavior draws the attention of Griff (Jon Bernthal), who makes fun of him, there's never the sense Griff will step out of line. That changes with the introduction of Leon Jefferson, as we know him, Bats.
Introduced dressed in a visual representation of burning rage, bright red and branded with the King of Hearts, Bats has a permanent scowl aimed in the direction of Baby, instantly taking a dislike to Doc's esteemed driver. Within the rules of the underworld, it becomes clear Bats isn't prepared to follow orders. Unlike Griff before him, the illusion Bats wouldn't actually cause Baby any harm is shattered half way into the movie during a tense shootout that illustrates Bats' mindset.
He whistles his way into the "Farmer's Market" like a dog walker on a Sunday stroll. Then, as The Butcher is providing his metaphorical description of the weapons on offer, he detects something wrong, convinced they're undercover cops. He instinctively opts for violence. "I'm gonna go with the picnic shoulder, 'cus I just love smoking pigs," he says, before butchering The Butcher and his henchmen with a stream of bullets, but Bats's reckless response almost gets the crew killed and causes an irreparable rift. His instinct was correct, but the police were corrupt, working for Doc.
The Personification Of Peril In 'Baby Driver'
Wright is a director acclaimed for splashing together the brightest colors of multiple genres to create his own distinct palette, and in Baby Driver, Bats is a personification of the switch between the comedy safety net and legitimate peril. You'd be forgiven for thinking Wright places him into the film to deliberately shatter expectations on a borderline fourth wall-breaking level. It's a move used to maximum effect.
Without this sense of genuine, impending doom, the scene following the shootout wouldn't be anywhere near as tense. Established as a chaotic, unruly murderer, Bats brings a palpable sense of danger in every scene he's in. Driving back from the carnage of the Farmer's Market, he tells Baby to stop at the diner where Debora works. As Baby's face drops, so does the collective face of the audience: The threat is real, we've just witnessed it, first-hand.
When Baby tells him he doesn't want to go in, Bat's police-detecting intuition kicks in. The scene that follows, inside of the diner, is when Foxx's highly charged, emotive brilliance comes to the surface. Tension hangs in the air as Bats provokes Buddy and Darling. Seemingly unaware of the relationship between Baby and Deborah, Bats then turns his attention to the latter, in his brutal best, basking in glee at having an opportunity to unsettle both. By the time he pulls his gun and causes Baby to step in, there's no telling if Bats will shoot her.
It's no huge surprise when later, during the highly charged heist on a bank, Bats kills an innocent security guard. Baby's obvious disgust at his behavior leads to him refusing to put his pedal to the metal to escape being capture by police. When Bats beats him, Baby tips over the edge. He drives forward serendipitously into a jagged steel bar that impales Bats in a grisly end to a ghastly, but utterly compelling, character.
Initiating The Film's Genre Switch
By allowing Bats to illustrate the genre switch, and introduce the sense that no character is safe, the door is then open for Buddy (Jon Hamm) to take the role of ultimate villain following Bats's death. This highlights the importance of Bats's role: Without his dissidence, Buddy's transformation from music-sharing ally to murderous villain would've seemed less flawless — even when factoring in the death of his wife, Darling, during an shootout with the police.
As Buddy switches, suddenly, the gravity of Baby's situation becomes evident. He's trapped. He needs to avoid the police while his life is threatened by those who should be on his side. As Baby Driver reaches its climax, Baby begins to drown as the waves of the situation take over. He tries to swim away with Debora, but the ship has sailed. After winning the battle against a vengeful and dangerous Buddy, he surrenders to the police and is sentenced to jail.
For many viewers, as the film reaches its conclusion and Baby finally emerges from behind bars to get behind the wheel, the most memorable moments will be linked to Baby Driver's secret catalyst — Bats — a larger-than-life villain, the key antagonist for one of Hollywood's most unlikely action heroes.
Who is your favorite character in Baby Driver?