Face-Off: Baby Driver vs. Drive

Glad to see you again, lovers of cinema. You have come back to the Face-Off to see what lucky competitors will be thrown into the pit together, and to see who will emerge victoriously. This latest battle is surely fast and furious, as we will pit two great crime stories (with a bit of passion and charm) that put the pedal to the metal: BABY DRIVER and DRIVE. Time to get your engines started, film fans, because this shit's about to go off.

Both movies feature quiet, reserved, mysterious but kind-hearted characters in the lead (Ryan Gosling and Ansel Elgort), and who both have their lives thrown for a loop when a charming lady enters their life. Directed with style and energy by Edgar Wright and Nicolas Winding Refn, these films are two of the best in the action-romance-crime-thriller genre, both with their own distinct spins on the format. Which has the slickest moves behind the wheel, though? Put it into high gear and find out below!

Ansel Elgort as Baby
Liliy James as Deborah
Jon Hamm as Buddy
Jamie Foxx as Bats
Kevin Spacey as Doc
Eiza Gonzalez as Darling
CJ Jones as Joseph
with Jon Bernthal as Griff
Flea as Eddie
and Lanny Loon as JD
Ryan Gosling as Driver
Carey Mulligan as Irene
Albert Brooks as Bernie Rose
Bryan Cranston as Shannon
Ron Perlman as Nino
Oscar Isaac as Standard
Christina Hendricks as Blanche
Elgort spent most of his career thus far starring in YA-centric films like DIVERGENT and THE FAULT IN OUR STARS but successfully makes the leap into the big leagues here, doing well alongside award-winning actors like Spacey, Foxx and Hamm. He's utterly likable and has this effortless suave about him as if he doesn't have a care in the world as long he has his tunes. You want so badly for him to succeed as the hero so he and Deborah can drive into the sunset, and Elgort sells the boy-next-door charm with style. However, his competition proves toothpicks beat sunglasses any day...
Gosling was just kicking off his massive breakthrough when he made DRIVE, with other films that year including CRAZY STUPID LOVE and IDES OF MARCH. But his icy cool, quietly charming and intense performance as The Driver will go down as one of his most iconic roles. Easily in the top five. He so easily meshes a James Dean vibe into a Man With No Name persona and then rocked it in some sweet denim and that iconic scorpion jacket. He breathed new life into the "stoic and cool" breed of characters and it's no secret why so many dudes still dress as this character for Halloween. And can we also credit him with bringing back the toothpick look? I think we can, because I just did.
As I'll get into a bit later, Wright does a great job with the action scenes here and makes the most out of the streets of Atlanta, showing Baby turning the city into his own private race track. On top of that Wright blew most people away with his idea to pace the movie's rhythm to Baby's music. [email protected] genius. This gives the movie such a powerful, funky personality. It's in all the above where Wright demonstrates his ingenuity, however, as for everything else, it's not his best film. At its core, this is a sweet tale about a boy who likes a girl and has to overcome breathtaking odds to be with her. Wright wrings so much chemistry out of Elgort and James and loves to keep things intimate between the two. But it's all simple to a fault: though the chemistry is undeniable, I found more complexity in relationships in Wright's other efforts like SCOTT PILGRIM and even the bromance in HOT FUZZ/SHAUN OF THE DEAD, etc. It's his most grounded effort, but I'm not sure if I love grounded Wright like I do the absurdly unique Wright from earlier films. Granted, grounded Wright is still totally awesome and better than other directors by miles.
Refn hadn't done a whole lot before DRIVE, his major claim to fame being Tom Hardy's BRONSON. But one thing he has a knack for is telling character studies with an ethereal style and against brutal backdrops (this also includes the Viking drama, VALHALLA). He does much of the same with DRIVE, but took it to the next level with a more accessible story and a tremendous cast. The visual style he and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel concocted is enrapturing and gives the moments of solemn driving a dreamlike quality. Then there are the brutal hard-R moments where Refn let Gosling go completely bananas and drive his boot into mafia dudes faces. On the more tender side there are the intoxicating scenes between Gosling and Mulligan, which really just wraps the whole thing in a pretty bow. What makes Refn's job on this movie so impressive is how naturally he combines all the themes and elements and paints them across a neon-lit canvas. It's brutal, emotional, violent, thrilling, complex and so god-damn well-acted. I'm still hurt over Albert Brooks' Oscar snub. (*KICKS TRASH CAN!*)

Baby, a young music fanatic, and a superb driver has spent the last few years working for Doc as a getaway driver and does so with the help of his trusty iPod(s). Soon he meets a young southern belle, Deborah, and hopes that he can move away from the crime life and into one of domestic bliss with this blonde beauty. However, he learns that getting out is not so easy, and if he's to live the life he wants, he's gonna have to crank the tunes and go into high gear.

Like all his movies, Wright finds a way to make this love/crime story all his own. The dialogue crackles and snaps and has no shortage of laughs, and sounds and moves like a Tarantino flick. But this is an Edgar Wright film, so of course, it has its fair share of quirky humor, even though this is his least funny film. Wright seemed to be aiming for a real hybrid of an action thriller with a romance story, with the humor being more of a sprinkling on top. The genre-blending works great, though, with plenty of well-written characters feeling unique enough to not be typical action-thriller cut-outs, and a romance that's instantly absorbing.

A lone-wolf stunt driver who moonlights as a getaway man finds his lonely, solemn life changed forever when he gets to know his lovely next-door neighbor, Irene, and her son, Benicio. He begins to open himself up as he falls for her, but the fairytale is upended when her husband comes home, and finds himself embroiled with some Italian thugs. The Driver must put his skills to use in order to get him off the hook, but is soon dragged down into the criminal underworld in a bad way.

A classic crime thriller done with an art-house, avant-garde style, the DRIVE script by Hossein Amini (based on the book by James Sallis) avoids cliches by writing three-dimensional characters with distinct personalities and gliding effortlessly from a thoughtful character study into an intense crime thriller. There are so many great lines of dialogue, and Amini knows when to let one character talk and to make the other keep silent, never exhausting a scene with too much dialogue. Both Driver and Bernie get some great, long pieces that set the tone, and then the moment settles with minimal responses or just silence.


Meet Baby/Jamming in the Car

The First Getaway

Groovy Coffee Run

The Hideout/The Crew

Griff: "I mean, is he retarded?"

Doc: "'Retarded' means slow. Was he slow?"

Back-Up Glasses

Doc and Baby's Arrangement

Baby: "One more job and I'm done."

Doc: "One more job and we're straight. Sound good?"

Meet Joseph

Baby's Hobby

Flashbacks/Assorted Music Players


Deborah: "I'm jealous. Sometimes all I want to do is head west on 20 in a car I can't afford with a plan I don't have - just me, my music, and the road."

Meet Bats

The Second Plan

Baby Knows the Drill

Eddie: "I said Michael Myers!"

JD: "This is Mike Myers."

Bats: "It should be the HALLOWEEN mask."

JD: "This is a Halloween mask!"

Bats: "No, the killer dude from HALLOWEEN."

JD: "Oh, you mean Jason."

Eddie & Bats: "No!"

A Less Smooth Getaway

Baby's Conscious

Switching Cars

Bats to Baby: "The moment you catch feelings is the moment you catch a bullet."

Finally Straight

Junkyard Blues

Deborah: What is your name?

Baby: Baby.

Deborah: Your name's Baby? B-A-B-Y Baby?

Listening Party for Two

Baby: Pizza Boy Extraordinaire

A Lovely Meal Interrupted

Doc: "Now I don't think I need to give you the speech about what would happen if you say no, how I could break your legs and kill everyone you love because you already know that, don't you?"

Scoping Out the Post Office ft. Doc's Nephew

The Final Plan

The Deal Goes Up in Lights

The Wrong Diner

Doc: "Bananas"

Baby Exposed

Baby Ditches the Plan

Bats Impaled

Dashing Through Atlanta

Buddy and Darling Take on the Coppers

Darling Down, and Buddy Goes Off

Saying Goodbye to Joseph

Baby, Deborah and Buddy

Buddy: "Is she a good girl? You love her?"

Baby: "Yes, I do."

Buddy: "That's too bad."

One Last Stop

Baby: "You and I are a team."

Doc: "Don't feed me any more lines from MONSTERS INC!"

Doc Unloads

Buddy Returns

Buddy: "Here it is Baby; your killer track."

Leaping Over the Car

Buddy Takes Away Baby's Favorite Thing

Buddy Takes a Tumble

Baby Does His Time

Deborah: "Hey Baby, you know it's funny even though I heard it so many times in the court case I still can't get used to the fact that your real name is Miles. It's a cool name though. I can think of a lot of great Miles songs, but we still have to get through all those baby songs first. I can't wait till the day it's just us, music, and the road. See you later baby, all my love. Deborah."

Reunited Once More

Driver: "There's a hundred-thousand streets in this city. You don't need to know the route. You give me a time and a place, I give you a five-minute window. Anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours. No matter what. Anything happens a minute either side of that and you're on your own. Do you understand?"

Timing the Boys

The First Getaway

Ball Game Cover

Returning "Home"

Back on the Road

First Encounter with Irene

The Day Job

A Good Neighbor

Driver: "My hands are a little dirty."

Bernie: "So are mine."

A Detour with Irene and Benicio

Alone with Irene

Nino: "Now this... that is one motherfucking, fine-ass, pussy-mobile, motha-fucka'! Damn!

Bernie to Driver: " I used to produce movies. In the 80s. Kind of like action films. Sexy stuff. One critic called them European. I thought they were shit. Anyway, he arranged all the cars for me. Did all the stunts. I liked him. I liked having him around. Even though he overcharged the shit out of me. His next business venture, he got involved with some of Nino's friends. They didn't go for the overcharging bit. They broke his pelvis. He's never had a lot of luck. The reason I'm telling you this is that he has a lot invested in you. And so do I. So anything you need, you call me. We're a team now."

Meet Standard

Driver to Redneck: "How 'bout this. You shut your mouth. Or I'll kick your teeth down your throat and I'll shut it for you."

Standard's Dilemna

Driver: "One of those men gave that to you?"

Benicio: "He told me not to lose it."

Dinner with the Family

Standard: "All right. So I illegally walked over to a seventeen-year-old girl. And I walk up and I say, "Hello, Miss. What is your name?" And she didn't say anything. And then I said, "Well my name is Standard Gabriel." Then what did you say?"

Irene: "I said, "Where's the deluxe version?"

The Plan

Driver: "If I drive for you, you get your money. You tell me where we start, where we're going, where we're going afterward. I give you five minutes when we get there. Anything happens in that five minutes and I'm yours. No matter what. Anything a minute on either side of that and you're on your own. I don't sit in while you're running it down. I don't carry a gun. I drive."

Standard Gunned Down

An Unclean Getaway

Driver to Blanche: "Now, you just got a little boy's father killed. And you almost got us killed. And now you're lying to me. So how about this? From now on, every word out of your mouth is the truth. Or I'm going to hurt you."

Bye, Bye, Blanche

The Driver Unleashed

A Man and His Hammer

Driver to Cook: "Whose money do I have?"

A Well-Placed Bullet

Nino: "What do you get out of it?"

Driver: "Just that. Out of it."

The Elevator Scene

Bernie to Cook: "Shut the fuck up, you fucking monkey!"

Donning the Mask

Taking Down Nino

Driver to Irene: "Can I talk to you? I won't keep you long. I have to go somewhere and I don't think I can come back. But I just wanted you to know. Getting to be around you and Benicio was the best thing that ever happened to me."

A Chat with Bernie

Bernie to Driver: "Here's what I'm prepared to offer. You give me the money, the girl is safe. Forever. Nobody knows about her. She's off the map. I can't offer you the same. So, this is what I would suggest. We conclude our deal. We'll shake hands. You start the rest of your life. Any dreams you have, or plans, or hopes for your future... I think you're going to have to put that on hold. For the rest of your life you're going to be looking over your shoulder. I'm just telling you this because I want you to know the truth. But the girl is safe."

Parking Lot Stab Fest

A Gift for Irene

A Real Human Being

BABY DRIVER is all about the music, and Wright does a bang-up job of selecting a wide variety of songs to make up Baby's playlist. Funky pop classics, soulful ballads and lighting-fast rock tunes, there's no shortage of terrific music that comes blaring out of the speakers. But what makes the music all the more engaging is the character's emotional connection to it; we love the music because he loves it, and never fails to show it. Baby's music sets the whole tone of the movie, and the movie is expertly edited to match the rhythm of whatever is playing, perfectly, solidifying this as a movie with a song (or a dozen) in its heart.
Johnny Jewel was the first person to be hired to work on the DRIVE score and helped established much of the alternative, electronic pop style that Cliff Martinez would pick up to create the final score. The result is reminiscent of something akin to BLADE RUNNER, and that uses the city of L.A. as a canvas and the loneliness of it's subject to create something hypnotic and dreamlike. Nuanced and absorbing, DRIVE stands alongside SOCIAL NETWORK as a modern film score that proves electronic sounds can be just as effective and orchestras.
Baby is no doubt a cool character, always brandishing a pair of shades and silently jamming to his tunes. He has the energy a lot of guys wish they had, wherein they looked like they didn't have a care in the world and moved with a bit of "umph" in their step. Along with the crisp, fluid dialogue spoken by confident, assured actors, the movie certainly has an infectious vibe to it. What could be cooler than setting the pace of your movie to both pop classics and obscure tracks? Oh, well, perhaps the competition...
One of the major takeaways from DRIVE is that the neon-plastered setting, killer soundtrack, and laidback character made the movie exude with style and an effortless sense of cool. It's the cinematic equivalent of a dude leaning on the back wall at a party, smoking a cigarette, and giving absolutely zero [email protected] This is in large part thanks to Gosling, but points also go to Refn and Newton Thomas Sigel for showing Los Angeles in a different light. It's the poetic mystery of it all that's so tantalizing.
If I were to pick one aspect of the filmmaking process Wright varies up the most across his career it's filming his action scenes. From HOT FUZZ to SCOTT PILGRIM and now BABY DRIVER, all these films embrace different kinds of action techniques, and with DRIVER it's all slick, kinetic car action, like mixing FAST AND FURIOUS with HEAT. He has a ball showing Baby zip, dodge and even spin around cars. He turned Atlanta into his playground. What makes it all the better is syncing the action to whatever Baby is playing on his iPod, making the already exciting action all the more adrenaline pumping. I would be lying saying I have wanted to attempt Baby-esque moves while barrelling down the highway, but my music library is pretty awful.
Refn wastes no time showing off Driver's skills behind the wheel, with the opening scene mixing tension and fast-paced action. But this movie is more about the man behind the wheel than the wheels themselves (the case could be made BABY DRIVER is to), and the actual no-hold-barred car chases are a distant second. The opening getaway is awesome, but the only other major car chase involved Driver out-driving some folks in The Valley after Standard is killed, and even that is a pretty standard stuff (*drum snares*).
There's never really one villain in DRIVER, and the script plays with the notion of "you never know who your friends are." There's the crazy Bats, with Foxx playing the psycho with a total abandon and a little charm. Then there's Doc, the man who we expect to be the main threat, but who, in the end, only wants the best for Baby, and does seem to have a soft spot for the kid. The main threat turns out to be Buddy, a man who loves as hard for Darling as Baby does for Deb, and who goes red in the eye when his love dies. He represents a darker side of love and passion, while Baby is the purer side, and the two make for an interesting protagonist/antagonist pairing.
Like BABY DRIVER there's not just one baddie, with Driver sort of working his way up the chain - from Cook to Nimo and then to Bernie. Perlman is excellent as the scene-chewing Nimo, and though I don't condone shouting racial epitaphs in real-life, if there's anyone who gets a pass, it's Perlman as this character. Then there's funnyman Albert Brooks who goes completely off-the-wall here but also gives Bernie a sense of control and unflinching intimidation. He always has the perfect thing to say and delivers the movie's best dialogue again and again. As a foil for Driver, he seems to be the only man with more control than our protagonist, a man who can see the next move before it happens. Driver chews everyone else up and spits them back up, but not Bernie.
Box Office
    $107 million ($225 million global)
Box Office
    $35 million ($76 million global)

BABY DRIVER is ceaselessly entertaining, incredibly endearing, toe-tapping, and heart-racing joy to watch that manages to be all that thanks to a perfect combination of killer tunes, a great script, and amazing editing. But, sadly for DRIVER, DRIVE has much of what makes BABY DRIVER great and then more. Terrific music, gripping tension, an iconic leading character, shocking brutality and some career-best work from Brooks and Gosling all make for a tremendous piece of modern cinema. Upon rewatching it for this piece I was amazed how well it still holds up and how much is was absorbed by everything about it - especially the music. Virtually everything about it is pitch-perfect, and I believe it's earned its place as one of the best films of its decade. Is it weird that it still makes me want to buy driving gloves? Ah, who am I kidding, I can't pull those off.



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