Muscle cars and uber muscle cars for the guys, a little romance for the gals – what’s not to like in Dax Shepard’s new film Hit & Run
? Well, maybe there’s just a bit of cheesiness. For the most part, this film is hilariously funny in a slightly dark way, sort of like Grosse Point Blank
, but a few gags go just a bit too far and turn some characters into caricatures. Dax Shepard (who wrote, co-directed, and stars) said in an interview that the film is a “car chase- comedy-drama,” That’s actually a pretty accurate description. I mentioned Grosse Point Blank
because it portrayed hired killers in a sympathetic light, and much of its humor came from the ironic way in which the assassins’ lives mirrored the lives of the typical, American corporate executive. As I watched Hit & Run
, I couldn’t help but think that it is just a more light-hearted take on a sympathetic criminal as a main character.
Dax Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a man living under the obscurity of the Witness Protection Program, in a small, rural California town. He lives with his girlfriend Annie (Kristen Bell) who knows he’s in the program, but doesn’t really know anything about his earlier life. They seem to be living an idyllic life in the country, but Annie has a PhD. in sociology – specializing in nonviolent conflict resolution -- and is working far below her ability level in a local community college. When her boss Debbie, hilariously played by Kristin Chenoweth, recommends her for a top job at the University of California, the central conflict of the film arises. The job would be in Los Angeles, the very place that is the most dangerous for Charlie. The former friends he testified against still live there (his testimony was unsuccessful), and they’d like nothing better than to kill him.
Tom Arnold plays Randy, the hapless Federal Marshall assigned to Charlie’s case. He’s one of the characters exaggerated to the point that his mishaps stop being funny. Randy panics when he learns Charlie is going to drive Annie to L.A. and vows to follow him. Thanks to Annie’s obsessive ex-boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), Charlie’s cover is blown. Gil decides to follow Charlie and Annie to L.A. as well, wreaking havoc along the way. The real criminals, led by Alex Dimitri (Bradley Cooper), join the pursuit. Cooper does a good job playing against type as the sociopathic, blonde- dreadlocked, psycho-babble spouting Alex. Gil’s gay brother Terry (Jess Rowland), a sheriff’s department officer, ends up joining the chase, too. So if this sounds confusing, it sometimes is. Beau Bridges has a small, but meaty, role as Charlie’s father, Clint Perkins. Charlie’s real name is Yul Perkins.
For the most part, the script is smart and funny, but again, some gags are carried on too long. The dramatic part of the story comes from Annie’s inability to come to terms with Charlie’s former life. Charlie basically wants to forget his former life. Will they reconcile? Will Alex kill Charlie? Will Gil and Randy stop being annoying? You’ll just have to see the film to find out!
Finally, the cars make the film worth seeing. Charlie and Annie first take off in a ’67 Lincoln equipped with a custom-built 700 horse-power motor. Everyone has a fast car. In fact, even Randy’s minivan hits the triple digits on the speedometer. The car chase part of the film really delivers. As I left the theater parking lot and got onto I-25, it was 9pm, there was very little traffic, and the freeway lanes stretched out invitingly before me. It took a lot of restraint not to drive very, very fast on the way home!