DIR: Dax Shepard, David Palmer • WRI: Dax Shepard • PRO: Andrew Panay , Nate Tuck, Kim Waltrip •DOP: Bradley Stonesifer • ED: Keith Croket • DES: Emily Bloom • CAST: Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper
Chase movies are often derided as being flat and singular in their narrative and their characters. When you take films like White Lightning or The Driver, there’s little exposition beyond the necessaries in order to forward the story. There’s rarely much story other than the chase and why the characters are being chased.However, Hit and Run is attempting to mesh recent dramedies like Knocked Up and TV’s Scrubs with chase movie tropes. It’s an interesting choice of genre-mashing as you wouldn’t expect them to work – yet here, it strangely does. Dax Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a former getaway driver who’s living in smalltown America with his beautiful girlfriend, Annie Bean (Kristen Bell). When Annie is offered a new job in Los Angeles, Charlie agrees to take her. Shrugging off his Witness Protection agent, Tom Arnold, Charlie takes his Lincoln Continental on the road and heads for the city. Not only are the couple being chased by Tom Arnold, Annie Bean’s ex-girlfriend takes after them and manages to wrangle in Charlie’s former gang to help.
The mixture of genres is interesting and some of the comedy moments do go over quite well. Shepard’s ease working with both his real-life fiance Kristen Bell and long-time friend Bradley Cooper is very much evident throughout. The improvisational nature of the dialogue works well and the fun everyone had making the film comes through. As well as that, Shepard’s love of old-school muscle cars comes through. It’s clear he isn’t just paying lip service to old chase movies or, indeed, the use of American cars for key chase sequences. However, most of the action / chase scenes are quite flat and lack clear direction and energy. Given how Shepard wrote, starred, directed and edited this and without studio intervention, it’s abundantly clear that Hit and Run was a passion project. His enthusiasm for American cars and gearhead culture bursts through the film – particularly in one scene where he and Bell discuss the type of person that would actually drive a blacked-out, tooled-up Lincoln Continental.
Sadly, for all of Shepard’s enthusiasm and pluck, it doesn’t translate into much. The film is overwrought with bland subplots, particularly the ex-boyfriend (Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum) and Tom Arnold’s closeted homosexuality that verges on offensive. As mentioned, the chase sequences become uninteresting very quickly and lack real pacing and vigour. While the film was made for a measly two million dollars, half of which was spent on securing the film’s genuinely impressive soundtrack, it’s clear that Hit and Run was being pushed along by Shepard himself. Had he brought in a full-time director and given the screenplay over to a more experienced writer, something much more credible and enjoyable could have been made. Overall, Hit and Run is reasonably enjoyable but doesn’t have any sustaining qualities or glaring faults.