So imagine this scenario — you’re writing, co-directing, and editing a film that you’re starring in along with your beautiful fiance. It would be kind of hard not to make your character a total badass, the ultimate sweetheart romantic, and an all-around funny guy as you win the heart of your girlfriend’s character, right?
So I can’t really fault Dax Shepard for making his character, Charlie Bronson (oh yeah, he also named himself after two of history’s biggest badasses), in Hit and Run a tough as nails getaway driver with a great sense of humor and who also happens to say the sweetest things to his girlfriend Annie, played by his real-life fiance Kristen Bell. But while I understand that, it definitely hurts the movie by diluting the action and humor with couple bits that are actually very sugary and annoying.
Anyway, couple Charlie and Annie live in a small town where Annie teaches at the local college. Though the two are very much in love (awwww!), Annie knows very little about Charlie because he is in the Witness Protection Program. Annie is offered an interview for her dream job in Los Angeles though that is where Charlie’s criminal past lies, unbeknownst to Annie. Charlie decides to fire up his 1967 Lincoln Continental and accompany Annie to Los Angeles, though his past quickly catches him because of the efforts of Annie’s loser ex-boyfriend, Gil (a wonderfully devious Michael Rosenbaum). What follows is a wild chase with Charlie hoping to escape his old partners in time to get Annie to her interview. But once Annie begins to learn more details of Charlie’s past, does she even want to stay with him?
As I pointed out before, there are way too many “cutesy” moments between Shepard’s character and Bell’s character in the first half of the film. I get that they’re a real-life couple, but these scenes really do detract from the humor and the action because they’re bits right out of a romantic comedy, like Shepard was intent on drilling it into your head that this couple is just SO IN LOVE they can’t help it (awwwww!) I know Shepard was probably going for a “something for everyone” kind of movie, but these scenes simply don’t fit. It’s like watching two people who are dating who are guilty of too many public displays of affection — it just makes you roll your eyes as you wish they would stop.
See what I mean? Cut it out you two!
In addition to Rosenbaum there are three other key performances that are surprising and really help the film. Broadway superstar Kristin Cheonweth breaks out of her usually wholesome image in her brief role as Annie’s foul-mouthed boss. Tom Arnold is also surprisingly impressive and funny as Charlie’s Witness Protection Officer, an inept and clumsy U.S. Marshal who might as well be named Inspector Clouseau. And finally, Bradley Cooper is almost unrecognizable in his sunglasses and whiteboy dreadlocks as Charlie’s former partner in crime. While he looks ridiculous, he shows that he’s not the type to be messed with — a type of role we really don’t see from Cooper. There are also funny appearances from Beau Bridges and David Koechner, so Shepard definitely put together a strong, if eclectic, supporting cast.
With Hit and Run Shepard and his co-director David Palmer have definitely improved upon their prior collaboration, the 2010 “comedy” Brother’s Justice, particularly with a thrilling four-car chase as the various plots converge (naturally the chase happens in abandoned wide-open spaces that are perfect for chasing, but what would a movie car chase scene be without those?) It’s also funny, with Shepard’s Charlie cracking some pretty good one-liners, though Annie is a bit of a buzzkill because her academic genius is simply OFFENDED by Charlie’s humor, which is kind of annoying, actually. If you’re a fan of Shepard I can assure you this movie is a hell of a lot better than some of his previous films like Let’s Go to Prison and Employee of the Month… but of course that isn’t saying much since his movie career has been rather… well, awful.
Hit and Run is a solid, enjoyable film that features a lot of great performances from the supporting cast. It would’ve been an even better film if Shepard and Palmer went for a cooler, grittier vibe than what they did here. Since they didn’t, it’s like a cheesy version of Drive if the Driver was a lot more whiny about his relationship problems.
Rating: A good mix of action and comedy but with a side order of too much cutesy romance (5.5/10)
Hit and Run will be released on August 22.