During the first part of 2012, it seems that films can be categorized as either a mega budget tent pole or low budget comedy. Most films that fall under the second category make up the lack of budget by either being slapstick funny or splattering the script with romance. Enter Hit & Run, a throwback to the car chase films of the 1970s. With the younger generation not be familiar with films like Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run, this chase film may feel like a new concept.
Dax Shepard plays a car enthusiast living in the middle of nowhere as part of the witness-protection program after testifying against his best friend (Bradley Cooper) in the wake of a failed robbery. He befriends a klutzy marshal in charge of keeping him safe (Tom Arnold) and has a loving, overachieving sociology professor girlfriend (Kristen Bell). Bell gets an opportunity to interview for a dream position as head of the nation’s first nonviolent conflict resolution department at a prestigious Los Angeles university, the place where Shepard would put himself at risk. Throwing caution to the wind, Shepard and Bell go on a road trip to the West Coast while being pursued by Bell’s obsessive ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum) Arnold, and a cast of dangerous villains. In the process, Shepard comes face to face with his colorful past.
What shines in this film is sharp humor that seems to spring up every so often, even if it has moments of being awkward. The dialogue is a little unnatural, and at times raunchy, that takes chances with potentially offensive comments about rape and ethnicity. If you don’t mind racy conversations and the F bomb being dropped on many occasions you may find the dialogue a guilty pleasure. However, those who offend easily may find the subject matter anything but funny. There are genuine laughs (and perhaps a few misses) that at times feel like something from a Coen Brothers film in training. Throughout the film you never get the feeling any of the dialogue is contrived.
What doesn’t always work are stretches of storyline that somehow don’t make complete sense, and leave you wondering if you’re watching a drama, comedy or action/adventure. From a writer’s point of view, the twists and turns may make fun reading, but as a film it feels that at times the dots weren’t connected. That being said, Shepard doesn’t resort to obvious plot devices to keep the story moving. In spite of Hit & Run not making a full commitment on what type of a film it is, you are treated to the unexpected.
Dax Shepard, who stars, writes and shares directing duties, uses his everyday persona to its fullest and uses natural presence to drive his character. It may be difficult to buy the chemistry between him and Bell at first due to way they portray their characters. After all, why would a driven college professor want to shack up with someone in a witness protection program who doesn’t seem to have a job? Before you wonder if their off-screen romance doesn’t translate on screen, the two work well together and eventually, there is an honesty that falls out of the screen.
Co-star Tom Arnold steals the scenes he’s in, which he seems to do quite often since True Lies, and Bradley Cooper is humorous and barely recognizable in blond dreadlocks. The guest cast includes notable cameos by Jason Bateman, Kristin Chenoweth, Sean Hayes and Beau Bridges. Their appearances add a few random laughs into the mix.
For a film that features lots of cars, the chases don’t hit the adrenaline rush and edge-of-your-seat suspense that would have added energy to the overall experience. Driving in circles can be funny – and yes, there are laughs – but choreographically they didn’t always make sense, and how many times do we have to watch cars doing donuts? Some may even wonder if everyone may be driving on the wrong direction. A couple of the chases were about as much fun as watching kids on a bumper car ride.
Hit & Run has its charms and moments of surprises that keep the level of humor at a steady pace. It’s obvious Shepard love cars and the film is a labor of love. In the end, Hit & Run is a fun movie. If some of the elements were wound just a little tighter the film would have had a little more horsepower.
Hit & Run was co-directed by David Palmer, Dax Shepard and written by Dax Shepard. The film includes Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Chenoweth, Beau Bridges, Joy Bryant, Jess Rowland, David Koechner, Carly Hatter, and Ryan Hansen.
The film is rated R for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content. Running time is 100 minutes.