It’s safe to say Baby Driver is the surprise hit of the summer. Directed by Edgar Wright (known for projects like Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) and starring Ansel Elgort (of The Fault In Our Stars), the movie has leapt out to a 98% positive response at the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. It’s a rollicking and thoroughly enjoyable heist movie set almost literally to the beat of a wide-ranging soundtrack.
The movie is being praised largely for its style. Wright takes a unique approach, and largely through having his main character Baby (Elgort) wear headphones the entire movie, he makes it all about fusing action and music. That trick, plus a lot of eye candy and visual stunts, makes for a smooth and unusual stylistic experience. But as interesting as Wright’s approach is, it’s the work of the supporting cast that really puts Baby Driver over the top.
Jamie Foxx is hilarious as the short-fused tough guy Bats, and Jon Hamm might be even funnier (though oddly sympathetic also) as the love-struck warrior Buddy. But best of all is Kevin Spacey, who plays Doc, a wealthy and powerful man who moonlights as the behind-the-scenes manager of a heist ring. Equal parts mob boss and father figure to all involved, Doc is all over the place as a character, and yet Spacey makes him seem bizarrely acceptable.
Really, it’s just the latest in a long line of Spacey performances that kind of came out of nowhere to make movies better. The actor has been around for a long time, but in the last 10 years or so he’s boosted his reputation significantly by providing relatively small but incredibly impactful supporting work to movies like this one. Spacey is the best part of Baby Driver (well, maybe tied with Hamm), and in honor of his latest ringer performance in a decent movie, let’s take a look back at some similarly effective roles from recent years.
Unfortunately, Horrible Bosses now stands for a shaky brand. The sequel didn’t do nearly as well as the original, and thus a third installment now seems unlikely. But in the original, Spacey was one of the better comedic supporting characters in recent memory. The movie centered on three disgruntled men who decided to kill their bosses to make their lives better. Sure it was ridiculous, but think of it like Office Space for a more modern audience further desensitized to joking violence. At any rate, Spacey’s appearance as one of the bosses – a calculating, wealthy, supervillain of a corporate boss – was simply brilliant. It takes that kind of work to make you sympathize with a character plotting to murder his boss because he’s tired of middle class existence!
The Men Who Stare At Goats
You don’t need to go any further than the title to know this was a weird movie to begin with. It was based (extremely loosely) on a true story about the U.S. military’s exploration of psychic powers as weapons of war. And naturally, in any movie with this kind of subject matter, there has to be a bad guy who tries to use the powers for nefarious purposes. Enter Spacey, whose work as the ambitious army man Larry Hooper injected an odd dosage of familiarity in an otherwise ludicrous movie. He was a caricature of an archetype, and sort of grounded the story.
21 looked like a sort of silly follow-up to movies like Rounders and Ocean’s 11, built largely on a sexy vibe and the idea of winning riches in Vegas. But it was based on a story about an MIT math club that used card counting to dominate casinos for years. The story is true – so much so that it’s been used as an example of the fact that counting cards can work – and it felt all the more realistic because of Spacey’s presence in the film. He plays a professor with deep mathematical skill who essentially gathers, trains, and exploits his most capable students. Once again this was Spacey at his best as a nefarious mastermind, and without him the movie would have felt a lot sillier.
Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Finally, we have perhaps Spacey’s most unexpected role in the last decade, as a voice actor and character basis in the video game Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare. We’re used to occasionally hearing famous voices in major games, but Spacey more or less played an animated character throughout the game, and that’s a little further than an A-lister usually goes. Needless to say it added a more cinematic quality to the game, and it was a pretty cool move for Spacey to lend his talents to the project. Then again, given the fact that his famous House Of Cards character likes to play shooter games to unwind at the end of the day, maybe Spacey just has a thing for the genre….
Keep jumping into strange movies and unexpected projects, Mr. Spacey. You make them better every time.