Hit & Run
Directed by: David Palmer and Dax Shepard
Cast: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Tom Arnold, Bradley Cooper, Kristen Chenoweth
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins
Release Date: August 22, 2012
PLOT: An ex-getaway driver named Charles Bronson (Shepard) risks breaking Witness Protection by driving his girlfriend (Bell) to Los Angeles for an important interview. Things get crazy when they are chased by a bitter criminal associate (Cooper) looking for the money from their last failed robbery.
WHO’S IT FOR?: Hit & Run has fast cars, a devoted couple in love, and Bradley Cooper in dreadlocks. Whether it fully delivers or not on the fun it hints at, it is definitely assembled to be a solid date movie.
EXPECTATIONS: I don’t watch Shepard’s show “Parenthood,” so to me he’s still Ashton Kutcher’s old sidekick on “Punk’d.” Still, I was very willing to give him a chance. Anyone that writes, co-directs, stars, and casts their real life wife in a movie has my initial respect.
Dax Shepard as Charlie Bronson: Dispensing most of the comedic responsibility to other actors (Arnold, Chenoweth, Cooper), Shepard plays a tough guy with a rough past; a former sidekick who just wants to focus on his future. It’s definitely the type of role someone in Shepard’s shoes would play in this career chapter. Shepard’s Bronson is the underdog who barks with a loud car, and whose masculinity can easily be expressed with violence. With the sincerity that vibrates throughout this story of passion (for cars, action movies, and true love), Shepard is certainly acceptable in this role that will likely change how you see him in movies from now on.
Kristen Bell as Annie: As Bronson’s other half, Annie is an amusing opposite, especially when they clash on politically correct manners. Though strapped into the script as a Damsel In the Front Seat, Bell sprinkles on natural sweetness to an otherwise simple role.
Tom Arnold as Randy: Like many characters in comedies about witness protection, Arnold’s character probably has no business being a federal agent working in that department (but that’s why this guy is funny, ha ha ha!). To be fair, if Arnold were to win some useless award (MTV Movie Award, for example) for being a crowd-pleaser, he’d better share it with that rinky dink minivan that sets him up for his many clumsy moments.
TALKING: When not involved in the movie’s car-shifting action, Hit & Run’s center couple can be seen having relevant chats in long-shot conversations. Often, they discuss the ideas being tossed around the film, giving Hit & Run a chance to start a dialogue about its non-PC attitudes towards certain subjects (masculinity, homophobia, sodomy). For example, when Charlie remarks that “Nitrous is for f*gs,” the following scene is of the two sharing their own side of that statement (comically, and constructively). As for the movie’s romantic dialogue, it has a natural charm, and it’s rarely gross. The expressions between the two (especially when they are fighting) sound like those of average people, albeit those who see no flaw in a cliché. Hit & Run certainly hits a sweet center when Charlie proclaims to Annie, “You can judge a person by their past, or by now. You can’t do both … move forward with me.”
SIGHTS: This lower-budget car chase movie is more about speed than stunt, an important difference that sets this apart from other motor movies and also simplifies one of its more passionate elements. Hit & Run becomes more about the cars than the flashy moves that are performed with them. This has a small negative exception in the movie’s second biggest sequence, in which the chasing cars are shot in a way reminiscent of Michael Bay’s impromptu shiny car ads in the Transformers movies.
SOUNDS: The Hit & Run soundtrack grooves to tunes that are of the funky soul variety. Tracks like “Let It Whip” by Dazz Band, “Summer Madness” by Kool & The Gang, and “Funky 16 Corners” by The Highlighters give the reckless car fun an attitude different from just the typical full throttle, rock ‘n roll selection.
BEST SCENE: My biggest laugh might have come from Jason Bateman’s cameo, which is a well-timed surprise.
ENDING: “Way to go green, asshole!”
REWATCHABILITY: Hit and Run is occasionally fun the first time, and probably wouldn’t be that captivating in a second viewing. Arnold’s comedic follies can only get worse the more you look at it/think about it.
Hit & Run is the type of light fare that’s still amusing even when it’s lacking anything particularly special. Its story driving force isn’t the cars, which are used for wacky action more than anything else, but the undeniable chemistry between Bell and Shepard. Watching them talk in a car is more exciting than it probably should be, and usually its more stimulating than the car chaos that Hit & Run tries to mix up on a scale smaller than a Fast and Furious movie.
Written by Shepard, this journey moves at a decent pace, and is always assisted by surprises, usually involving characters switching up to a different car. A season-end summer movie with a simple title, a silly villain played by Cooper and a total lack of urgency, it’s a film that doesn’t beg to be taken seriously. You’re fine to oblige it.
FINAL SCORE: 6/10