Synopsis: Former getaway driver Charlie Bronson jeopardizes his Witness Protection Plan identity in order to help his girlfriend get to Los Angeles. The feds and Charlie’s former gang chase them on the road.
What do you get if you cross My Blue Heaven, Cannonball Run and Little Miss Sunshine? Hit & Run. No not a dark drama about vehicular homicide, but rather a sweet, if ordinary, fuel injected rom-com.
Written and co-directed by Dax Shepard, Hit & Run sees ex-con and current guest of the Witness Protection Program Charlie Bronson (Shepard), decide to risk life and limb by fleeing the program in order to drive his girlfriend Annie (real life Mrs Shepard Kristen Bell) to a job interview in L.A. Unaware of the details of his past, things begin to unravel once they hit the road. They soon find themselves being pursued through the California countryside by a hapless US Marshall (Tom Arnold, yeah he’s still a thing apparently), Annie’s ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum), and the criminals Charlie double crossed led by Alex Dmitri (a dreadlocked Bradley Cooper).
As far as first efforts go for writing/directing go Shepard makes a good effort. I have always found him charismatic, usually in the supporting dufus role. Through the partnership with his real life wife Kristen Bell there is obvious chemistry between them. This is never more evident than as the foundations of their relationship are chipped away by the slow revelations of Charlie’s past becoming apparent. Shepard is a famous ex-party hound and drug addict who has candidly spoken of his previous battles with alcohol and drugs. Having been sober a number of years and settled with Bell, when they talk about forgiving someone their past indiscretions and loving the person in front of you, it is delivered with a sense of catharsis. Like Shepard re-packaged conversations he had many times before.
The cars are the real stars though. Shepard grew up a piston-head in Michigan and in Hit & Run he gets to show off his talents for driving. Much of the action takes place on the road and the camera dips, pans and lingers with the eye of someone who considers them mechanical works of art. In particular the use of an extended slow motion capture of Charle and Annie’s first getaway in his classic ’66 Lincoln Continental looks glorious as the young lovers kiss through a cloud of tyre smoke. Admittedly though, once you get to the third and fourth car chases it loses most of it’s sheen and excitement.
Ultimately though, the central issue with Hit & Run is; for a rom-com it isn’t particularly funny. It seems to struggle with an identity crises as to whether it is a romantic comedy or a screwball chase movie, and falls somewhere short of both. There are some funny moments but not enough to laugh out loud. Also one scene dealing with a particular prison “incident” is mis-judged at best and borderline racist at worst. Either way it wasn’t funny.
Outside of the natural chemistry between Shepard and Bell the supporting performances are also kind of flat. Tom Arnold is annoying as the flappy Marshall trying to keep Charlie safe. And Bradley Cooper was a weird casting choice for the dreadlocked, tracksuit wearing sociopathic villain Dmitri. Bearing in mind this is post Hangover and A-Team Cooper, it was a strange role for him to take. Maybe it looked funny on paper, or maybe he is really good friends with the Shepard-Bells. Who knows. All I know is, I always wondered what Gary Oldman’s character in True Romance would have looked like when he was younger. Now I don’t wonder any more.
I won’t lie though, I did enjoy it. I never clock watched and, even if I never doubted they would make it out safe and sound, it’s all about the journey, right? And the journey features some sweet ass cars and bad ass driving.
About: More hit & miss than Hit & Run. Genuine performances from Shepard and Bell and some high octane driving lift it from the totally mediocre.
Directors: Dax Shepard – found fame on Punk’d. Openly candid about his wild past, now settled and married to co-star Bell; David Palmer – former music video and commercials director, won critical acclaim for his Showtime documentary America Stripped.
Writers: Dax Shepard
Cast: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Kristen Chenowith, Tom Arnold, Beau Bridges, Michael Rosenbaum, Ryan Hansen, Jess Rowland
- Made for $2m, it grossed $14m on release
- Most of the cars seen in this film are from Dax Shepard‘s personal collection
- Both the hot rod Lincoln Continental and the off-road race car belong to Dax Shepard in real life. Also, since the movie was an independent production with no studio supervision, Dax also did his own stunt driving.