Hit and Run - SideReel Review
There’s a pervasive sweetness to Dax Shepard and David Palmer’s turbo-charged rom-com Hit & Run that helps the film to maintain a satisfying forward momentum even when the laughs are spread out like mile markers on the freeway. And despite the fact that the plot is paper-thin and the direction fairly pedestrian, the playful chemistry between Shepard and co-star Kristen Bell helps to give this breezy distraction a boost of premium fuel when otherwise it would have been running on fumes. So while gearheads and their girlfriends may get the most out of Hit & Run, the rest of us will still want to see the two likeable protagonists stay in pole position as they race their way to L.A. with danger right on their rear bumper.
Once upon a time, Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) was a getaway wheelman for a quick-triggered gang of bank robbers, comprised of unpredictable Alex (Bradley Cooper), smoldering mastermind Neve (Joy Bryant), and their sharp-dressed sidekick (Ryan Hansen). But after being placed in the Witness Protection Program and falling for pretty Annie (Bell), Charlie’s criminal past has faded into the rearview mirror. When Annie lands an interview for her dream job in L.A., Charlie vows that she won't be late, and they hit the road in his custom-built muscle car. From the moment they leave town, however, Annie’s obsessive ex-boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum) is hot on their trail. Gil is interested in Charlie’s shady past, and after learning his true identity with the help of his policeman brother, Gil rats him out to Alex and the gang -- who promptly gas up their station wagon and give chase. Now, with U.S. Marshal Randy (Tom Arnold) trying to keep pace and protect his charge, Charlie finds every escape route blocked by his old gang -- a vengeful group who aren’t about to let his past sins go unpunished.
A likeable character actor who pulled Hollywood pranks on Punk’d before saving the future in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy and joining the cast of NBC’s Parenthood, Shepard first established himself as an emerging filmmaker (again alongside Palmer) as writer, co-director, and star of the 2010 mockumentary Brother’s Justice. Now he’s back with Hit & Run, and a simple glance at the credits reveals that he aspires to be more than just another funny face in the crowd. Hit & Run has the feel of a labor of love from a group of friends who enjoy making each other laugh. Not all of those laughs translate into the finished product, although it will likely come as little surprise to anyone who’s seen the film that Shepard and his onscreen girlfriend Bell are real-life romantic partners. And as more shady types are thrown into the mix, Shepard gets to show off his talent for nuanced characterization thanks to not only snappy dialogue, but memorable performances by supporting players Cooper (barely recognizable in blond dreadlocks, track pants, and yellow aviators) and Arnold (playing it broad with a sweaty brow) in particular.
Fueled by a soundtrack of rock & roll hits and paced to keep things moving (even the credits and a title card are saved for the end crawl), Hit & Run suffers slightly from flat direction and gags that sometimes stall out at inopportune times, but those shortcomings are easy to forgive thanks to the film’s playful tone and the fact that Shepard doesn’t resort to cliches when the stakes are at their highest. If you’re looking for laughs that come fast and furious, Hit & Run may be a bit of a letdown, but if you’re in the mood for a romantic comedy with a little extra horsepower, chances are you’ll enjoy letting Shepard and company take the wheel while you strap in and switch off your brain.