In the publicity material for Hit And Run, Dax Shepard says something along the lines of how he wanted to make his own Smokey & The Bandit but with a little added spice. “Just a little more comedy and a little more R” is a quote lifted from the blurb. Well, I have to admire Shepard for writing, co-directing and starring in the movie that he always wanted to make. Fair play to him. For some reason, I never warmed to Shepard when I first started seeing him onscreen but in the past few years he’s really grown on me (he’s hilarious in the unfairly neglected comedy, Baby Mama). So it’s a shame that the movie he has given to audiences never feels like the film he obviously wanted to make. The separate parts are there but they are either not afforded the best treatment (I’m thinking, specifically, of the few car chases here) or they are just not good enough (most of the comedy moments).
The plot is all about Dax Shepard’s character – a man in the witness protection program who now goes by the name of Charles Bronson. He’s very much in love with Annie Bean (Kristen Bell, who is also Dax Shepard’s partner in the real world) and when she gets the chance of a job in Los Angeles, Charles has to make a tough decision. Well, it’s not that tough. Despite some initial hesitation, Charles decides to throw caution to the wind and drive Annie to her job interview. They’ll need to make good time but that’s no problem as Charles used to drive quite a bit, in a past life that Annie doesn’t really know all that much about. But the past isn’t going to stay in the past as the couple find themselves pursued by Annie’s ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum in great form) and also by the very people that Charles never wanted to see again, a group of criminals led by vengeance-seeking Alex (Bradley Cooper). There’s also the kind but accident-prone Randy Anderson (Tom Arnold) on their tail, he was assigned to protect Charles and that’s just what he intends to do.
There are funny lines and moments here and there in Hit And Run but they are too few and far between to make the whole movie an enjoyable experience. Shepard is very possibly at his most likeable in the main role and most of the cast around him do a good job, with the exception of Bradley Cooper (I usually like the guy but he’s the weak link among the cast here). Decent support also comes from Jess Rowland, Kristin Chenoweth, Joy Bryant, David Koechner and Beau Bridges. No, the cast isn’t really a problem here.
The big problem is the way elements are mixed to make an unsatisfying final product. David Palmer may have been the co-director but I think that most of the blame needs to be heaped on Dax Shepard, who I am sure had the best intentions but just couldn’t quite get things right. It’s still, in some ways, a great achievement considering the small budget and the strings that Shepard pulled to get the thing made (including casting friends in major roles and even using some of his own cars onscreen) but that doesn’t make up for the lack of simple entertainment.
If you’re going to make a car chase movie then have some good car chases in there. This doesn’t have a one. Oh wait, there’s that moment when . . . . . . . . . . ummmm no, nope, not a one. There are a few car chases. There just aren’t any good ones. But, hey, if you can’t quite make the car chases as spectacular as you’d like to then make sure the laughs come thick and fast. Nope, it doesn’t do that either. At least give the film some heart then? Aha, it DOES do that. As much as I disliked the movie, and was disappointed by it, I have to say that I somehow felt something sweet and slightly naive buried under the layers of rubbish. It had heart, it was made by someone who really wanted to do something good, and it gets you onside even while making some major mis-steps. Which makes it even more of a shame that the end result isn’t really all that good.
Hit And Run screeches into cinemas here in the UK on Friday 12th October.
DIRECTOR: DAVID PALMER, DAX SHEPARD
WRITER: DAX SHEPARD
STARS: DAX SHEPARD, KRISTEN BELL, BRADLEY COOPER, TOM ARNOLD, MICHAEL ROSENBAUM, JESS ROWLAND, KRISTIN CHENOWETH, JOY BRYANT, DAVID KOECHNER, BEAU BRIDGES
RUNTIME: 100 MINS APPROX