Rating: 14A – Coarse Language, Nudity, Violence
Run Time: 100 minutes
Here’s a movie that left me completely indifferent. Not insulted or excited – just bored. “Hit and Run” is a would-be romp about as generic as its title. There is entertainment on the screen, or at least what looks like it: hot women, streaky-haired beaus, fast dialogue, and nonstop frenetic car chases. I hate to use this silly social term, but the movie is a hipster exercise. It involves lots of noise and rambunctious behaviour only to swivel into obscure cut-and-thrust conversations on you-name-it topics.
There is smart and then smug. Somewhere in the middle wallows “Hit and Run”. The movie moves with rat-a-tat momentum, while also waging the argument it is a conversation piece. Hardly. Maybe in the assured mitts of Quentin Tarantino (um, “Death Proof”?) that could fly, but “Hit and Run” – the baby of (i.e. cowriter, co-director, co-producer, co-editor and star) Dax Shepard – doesn’t have the bravado, wit, and energy to uphold that title. Tarantino can still rest on his laurels.
The movie stars Shepard and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”’s Kristen Bell as a northern California couple basking in paradise. Matters begin in a “True Romance”, you’re-so-cool reverie: Charlie (Shepard) and Annie (Bell) cuddle under puffy white bedcovers exchanging euphemistic whispers. Events are just beginning, but it’s as if these two are already at the end.
But that’s not the case. Annie is offered a big teaching job at a mighty Los Angeles university. That’s bad news for Charlie. His catch-22 is he has bad blood in L.A., but if he doesn’t go Annie won’t either, thus squandering her dreams. Decisions, decisions; only directors Shepard and David Palmer don’t linger too long. There’s an overlong interstate frolic to be had! So Charlie and Annie take off down the fast lane of Californian desert road – destination: L.A. – with dummy United States marshal Randy (Tom Arnold) at their pursuit.
Why is he? Well, this all has to do with Charlie’s dark secrets – one being, um, his name isn’t Charlie. It is Yul Perkins, a getaway driver for a dreadlocked crook named Alex Dimitri (Bradley Cooper). When a robbery went awry, Yul folded to the cops and went under Witness Protection. Alex located Charlie/Yul thanks to the big spiteful mouth of Annie’s obnoxious ex Gil (Michael Rosenbaum). Are you getting “A History of Violence” vibe yet? I am.
This comparison doesn’t stretch too far, however. Shepard and Palmer want to keep things on a B-movie keel, injecting scenes with a tequila-flavored rush that opts to be both preposterous and perceptive. Action scenes are juxtaposed by deliberate dialogue set pieces trying to find that thoughtful yet steady going-rate. But really this shifts matters into reverse gear, because “Hit and Run” strives to blend zippy intelligence and zappy vulgarity, but those two extremes clash more than connect.
In all fairness, you can tell Shepard values this project. He used some of his own cars, like that 1967 Lincoln Continental sex machine, and risks serious damage to them with some of the movie’s numerous car stunts. But “Hit and Run” doughnuts to the point of disorientation. None of the characters are relatable, the action lacks finesse, and the plot is nonsensical. There’s so little appeal.
I’m not sure who this film is for. Perhaps for car fanatics out for a “Fast and Furious”-like fix, but I wonder how they would react to the scene when various characters – not once, but twice! – stumble into a motel room full of naked old folks. I suppose that’s the entertainment offered at the tail end of the summer, where Oscar season is on the horizon and disposable trash makes its final turn. If this is what you seek at the finish line, “Hit and Run” welcomes you, forgettably waving its checkered flag.