HIT & RUN
By Gary Murray
Starring Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell and Bradley Cooper
Written by Dax Shepard
Directed by David Palmer and Dax Shepard
Running time 100 min
MPAA Rating R
Selig Film Rating—Matinee
Way back in the 1970s, there was an entire genre of films that featured muscle cars tearing down the roadways. They included Cannonball Run, The French Connection, Bullitt and Smokey & the Bandit. Some were comedies and others were dramas, but they all had at the centerpiece cool rods exceeding the speed limit. In the waning years, those kinds of films have fallen to the wayside. With the new flick Hit & Run, this type of movie makes a glorious comeback.
The film opens with Charlie (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Kristen Bell) in bed making small talk. It becomes very obvious that they are in new, young love and finding out more about each other. She is a college instructor in a small school and he is lying low as a part of the Witness Protection Program.
It seems that Charlie witnessed a crime four years ago and has been in hiding ever since. Charlie is guarded by Randy (Tom Arnold) an inept marshal who may be the weakest law enforcement officer in the history of the department. He has a tendency to get out of a running auto, firing at it as it drives away by itself.
Annie is offered a position in LA, her dream academic job. The problem is that Charlie cannot go back to California. After a bit of soul searching, Charlie decides to take Annie for her job interview. He is risking his life to be with the woman he loves.
Annie has a former boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum) who is jealous and mad about losing the love of his life. He eventually figures out that Charlie is actually Yul and was a part of a robbery, not just a witness. Gil contacts, through Facebook, Alex Dimitri (Bradley Cooper) the former leader of the gang. Demitri is a half-crazed psychopath who will stop at nothing to get revenge. He takes off to catch Charlie/Yul.
Hit & Run is about two different sets of high speed chases with intersecting casts and a cool 1970s muscle car. As the film zips along, the audience is exposed to hotel room swingers, shoot-outs in abandoned airstrips and high powered mayhem. The film is not as focused as the trailer makes it out to be.
Dax Shepard is the co-director, writer and star of the work so all the praises and blames go directly in his lap. The praises are for a film that is fun to watch, with a cast that looks to be having a great time while making this movie. The blames are in the structure of the work, which needs a basic three act formula. The final product seems to meander along without a true sense of urgency. A tighter screenplay would have done wonders for the final product.
Kristen Bell isn’t given much to do other than be pretty, which she does with amazing grace. She is a beautiful young actress that brings very little to a part that is shallow in the writing. It is basically the overused ‘girlfriend’ role that is a staple of this kind of cinema. The world of Hit & Run is definitely a male dominated place and women are nothing more than window dressing.
Bradley Cooper plays against type and does a great job being a bad guy. He is very atypical killer, a man who is caring and crazy within the same breath. There are moments here and there where he snaps, the best beats of the film. This is a stretch for the actor and he plays the comedy and sinister aspects of the role with the same grace.
The biggest share of laughs comes from Tom Arnold as Randy. This veteran comic knows how to manipulate the audience and milk every pratfall for full effect. He mirrors the best of slapstick comics while inventing a slightly different acting arc. Tom Arnold saves this film on more than one occasion and deserves to score a stand-alone film with this character.
Hit & Run is not a great movie but it is a great deal of fun to watch. It is not ‘cinema’ but a ‘movie’—something to check you brain at the door and enjoy as an entertainment. It doesn’t answer the questions of life but delivers a wild little film ride.