Hit & Run
August 31st 2012 · 0 Comments
Even if you paid very close attention to the commercial spots for “Hit & Run,” you wouldn’t be able to say very much about the film. The central figure of the plot would appear to be a character played by Bradley Cooper (willfully done, no doubt, in an attempt to trade on his cachet from the popular “Hangover” series), when he actually has just a small supporting role. Perversely, one of the prime elements that makes “Hit & Run” so enjoyable––that it exceeds the low expectations generated by the nondescript trailer––has ensured few will see it.
The film opened in a tenth place (though its take has nearly tripled its modest two million dollar budget) over a dismal late-summer weekend (lowest grossing of the year to date). So the film won’t make any best-of lists, but its peculiar blend of fancy cars, crime drama, and romantic comedy will eventually find some fans.
Annie (Kristen Bell) and Charlie (Dax Shepard) are in love, but they have a problem: Annie just got a great job offer hours away in Los Angeles, but Charlie can’t join her. Why? Because he’s in the Witness Protection Program. As far as Annie knows, Charlie witnessed a crime and testified against some scary criminals who are out to get revenge. What she doesn’t know is that Charlie was really the getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers, and they want to kill him for turning state’s evidence in their prosecution. Torn, Charlie decides to abandon safety and accompany Annie to LA, but a jealous ex-boyfriend of hers notifies the bank robbers’ ringleader, Alex (Bradley Cooper). Before long, we have the three-piece gang, Annie’s ex, along with his highway patrol brother and partner, and Randy (Tom Arnold), Charlie’s assigned U.S. Marshals protection detail, all involved in the chase.
The cast clearly has a great time, which manages to elevate the proceedings above the somewhat pedestrian script (penned by Shepard, who also co-directed along with his friend and frequent collaborator, David Palmer). Real-life couple Shepard and Bell have plenty of evident chemistry, and their quieter moments together are much more genuine than the typical schmaltzy rom-com of the week. Shepard himself is the real revelation here, however. While a more expensive, studio-driven picture would likely have forced the scruffy Shepard to play the part of the nasty, gun-toting villain in favor of giving Bradley Cooper top billing, Dax really shines in the lead role. He also shows much more range than prior roles, in films like the brain-dead wilderness comedy “Without a Paddle” would suggest of his capabilities.
The rest of the cast is largely solid. Kristen Bell does a fine job as the strong, but idiosyncratic Annie. Tom Arnold’s bumbling Marshal is perhaps under-scripted and not nearly as funny as directors Shepard and Palmer seem to think, but Arnold is just naturally endearing enough to save the character from really dragging down the film’s brighter spots. One unfortunate misstep comes with the character of Alex, the ostensible villain. Bradley Cooper does his level best, but it’s still hard to take his goofy dreadlocks seriously, even with the aid of a few random acts of violence. The near-bloodless climax robs him of the requisite menace, though that’s largely an issue with scripting.
The film also has a curious obsession with cars, ranging from souped-up, classic muscle cars, to modern hot-rods, and even a high-performance dune buggy. At times, it seems like thin premises demanding a car change are employed only to string the well-shot chase sequences together (the silliest being when an unnamed character with two minutes of screen time steals the engine from Charlie’s car). Your tolerance of these sequences will depend on your affinity for blatant car porn.
Overall, “Hit & Run” manages to get enough right to make for a surprisingly entertaining experience. Be advised that it earns its R-rating with lots of profanity and full-frontal elderly nudity. It may only be Tarantino-lite like the excellent “True Romance,” written by QT and directed by the recently-deceased Tony Scott), with less violence and less-snappy dialogue, but anyone who finds the film’s blend of cars and crime intriguing will likely be satisfied.