By Don Simpson | August 20, 2012
Directors: David Palmer, Dax Shepard
Writer: Dax Shepard
Starring: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Tom Arnold, Kristin Chenoweth, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rosenbaum, Ryan Hansen, Beau Bridges
Charlie (Dax Shepard) has settled down to live a bit of the ole straight and narrow with his girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell). They are living a quiet life in rural California until one day Annie is given the inside track on a job interview in Los Angeles. It is the job of Annie’s dreams, but Charlie is inexplicably conflicted. He really wants to drive with Annie to her interview…so, why won’t he?
You see, Charlie has a secret past. Unbeknownst to Annie, his name is not really Charlie Bronson, he borrowed that name from the famous English criminal (the subject of Nicolas Winding Refn’s bio-pic Bronson). As it turns out, Charlie is part of a Witness Protection Program and his “friend” Randy (Tom Arnold) is the wackadoodle police detective assigned to his case. If Charlie crosses the county line, he will be breaking the restrictions of the WPP; more importantly, doing so will most likely put him back on the radar of his natty dreadlocked ex-partner in crime (Bradley Cooper). Fearing that he may lose Annie due to his presumed stubbornness, Charlie opts throw caution to the wind, pack up his 1967 Lincoln Continental and drive Annie to LA.
Not long after they hit the two-lane blacktop, Charlie and Annie find themselves being chased by Annie’s ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum), Charlie’s ex-partner, and Randy. Like most comedies built upon the premise of a long distance car chase, the plot of Hit and Run gets pretty preposterous at times; but the orchestration of the countless car chases is astounding. Hit and Run is a vehicle (mind the pun) for writer-director Dax Shepard to showcase several of his favorite cars, including a station wagon, Corvette, CTSV and the aforementioned Continental. This is clearly a film by a man who loves his cars and takes great pride in his driving abilities.
What really surprised me about Hit and Run is the naturalistic dialogue and performances. Presumably Shepard took a lot of notes while on the set of The Freebie, because if not for all of the car chases — and the casting of Kristen Bell, Tom Arnold, Kristin Chenoweth and Bradley Cooper — I would swear that Hit and Run is a post-Mumblecore film. Shepard lets Arnold, Chenoweth and Cooper be the over-the-top comic relief, while he and Bell downplay the dramatic elements of their roles to much more realistic levels.
As for Shepard’s writing and directing, Hit and Run is significantly more refined and developed than Brother’s Justice. Sure, I enjoy Brother’s Justice as a goofy home video that somehow became his first feature film, but Hit and Run seems like Shepard’s first official production. Hit and Run is haunted by one primary flaw — it always uses comedy as a safety net. No matter how dramatic and thrilling the story gets, Shepard seems unable to take his writing and directing abilities all that seriously. Personally, I would really like to see Shepard rely less upon comedy in his future endeavors, while further developing the dramatic and thriller elements of his writing and directing. Regardless, the scene in Hit and Run with the swinging seniors is pretty freaking hilarious!