A film review by Craig J. Koban September 5, 2012
HIT AND RUN
2012, R, 100 mins.
2012, R, 100 mins.
Charlie Bronson: Dax Shepard / Randy: Tom Arnold / Annie: Kristen
Bell / Mary Ann: Kal Bennett / Clint Perkins: Beau Bridges / Debbie:
Kristin Chenoweth / Alex Dimitri: Bradley Cooper / Gil: Michael
Rosenbaum / Terry: Jess Rowland
The bad news for Dax Shepard’s HIT AND RUN is that it’s a beyond-obvious Tarantino knock-off right down to its colorfully macabre and eccentric characters and its hip and topical pop-culture laced dialogue exchanges.
news for Shepard’s film is that it’s one of the better and more
easily digestible Tarantino clones to come around in quite some time,
which also manages to pay some serious fanboy love to the drag racing
energy and eat-my-dust spunk of the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT-themed road
films of the 1970’s. More
of less, HIT AND RUN spins its gears – no pun intended – rather well
throughout its sure-footed 100-minute running time and emerges as a
goofily spirited, fairly engaging, oftentimes sly, frequently politically
incorrect, and mostly satisfying romcom/chase flick.
might also be the only film ever to have Charles Bronson teamed up
with a girl that has a Ph.D. in non-violent conflict resolution.
silly...not that Charles Bronson.
The main character in the film does indeed have the same name as the
DEATH WISH star, but he's not named after that actor, but rather after the
real life British prisoner that Tom Hardy memorably played in the 2008
film BRONSON; needless to say, most people around him understand the
famous actor connection. Charlie
– played by Shepard, who also wrote and co-directed HIT AND RUN – is
actually Yul Perkins (named after Yule Brynner)
who appears to be living a quaint and quiet existence in small-town
California specifically as a result of testifying against his former best
friend, Alex (Bradley Cooper) in a bank robbery trial six months earlier. Since the trial he has
been placed in the Witness Relocation Program where he was allowed to
change his name: Good-bye Yul, hello Chuck Bronson.
hiding in Podunk, California Charlie met and fell in love with the
beautiful Annie (Kristin Bell), the aforementioned scholar on non-violent
conflict resolution. Her
focus of study is so exceedingly rare that she is elated to discover that
she has been handpicked to head up a whole faculty on the subject at a
University in L.A.. After some
initial reluctance to see his girlfriend leave, Charlie decides that he
would never be able to live with himself if he insisted on her staying in
Podunk, so he offers to drive her all the way to L.A. in his uber-restored
and uber-souped-up 1967 Lincoln Continental.
is taking some real chances on his seemingly innocent drive to the City of
Angels. Leaving Poduck would
be a breach of the terms of his relocation program and would, in turn,
greatly frustrate his already fidgety, hyper-anxiety plagued, and closeted
homosexual program overseer, U.S. Marshall Randy (Tom Arnold).
Charlie and Annie’s road odyssey does not begin well: An old
flame of Annie’s, Gil (Michael Rossenbaum) still obsessively pines for
her, and when his jealousy over her going off with Charlie reaches a
boiling point, he begins to stock them on the freeway.
Even worse, he discovers Charlie’s real identity and blabs his
whereabouts to the criminals – via Facebook - that Charlie turned
against months ago. Things
then get very, very complicated for Charlie and Annie..
is an actor that I’ve never really latched on to in any meaningful
manner (he was borderline forgettable in movies like LET’S GO TO PRISON,
WHEN IN ROME – also co-staring
Bell, his real-life girlfriend – and EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH).
Shepard wrote HIT AND RUN, co-directed it, starred in it, did most
of his own stunt driving in it, and even supplied most of the vehicles
used in the production, a multi-tasked feat that deserves some respect.
You can really tell that Shepard is a full-on auto-nut and goes to
great lengths to show his admiration for his drop-dead-sexy and ink-black
700-hp Continental. There is
a super slow motion montage at one point in the film that shows him pealing
out from the car’s resting spot on the side of the freeway – with
wheels spinning, rubber burning, and smoke billowing - that’s presented
in near-pornographic detail. Cars
like this are designed to look cool, and the film achieves its status quo
of making great visual usage of its vehicles when their pedals are put to
Tarantino-ian comparison here comes in the way Shepard tries to infuse the
film with lively dialogue exchanges, and even though he is certainly not
the PULP FICTION helmer’s equal in
this respect, Shepard does have a modest knack for writing snarky, snappy,
and frisky exchanges - usually between Charlie and Annie - that keeps the
film briskly move forward. There
are lots of unexpectedly offbeat conversations between characters that
lesser road action comedies would not have, like ones involving the key
ingredients of B-grade dog food; what owning muscle cars says about
masculine ego – or lack there of; and, hell, even the nationality
of the person that raped Alex in prison is brought to the forefront.
At one point Charlie uses a derogatory term for homosexual people
to describe something as being “lame”, but Shepard’s script does not
leave it at that: Annie then engages in a meticulous dissection of
Charlie’s rationale for using that homophobic slur in what he sees as an
characters that populate the film around Charlie and Annie (Shepard and
Bell together evoke a natural and unforced chemistry) are whimsically
eclectic as well. First, there’s Bradley Cooper’s surprisingly
low key and sometimes hysterical portrayal of his dread-locked crook with
an eye for vengeance. Then there’s a gay highway patrol officer named Terry (Jesse Rowland) that
finds himself perusing Charlie and Annie throughout the film while looking
for love at the same time (he has an app called “Pouncer” that is able
to use GPS to locate other gay people that use it).
This leads me to my favorite character in the film, Arnold’s U.S.
Marshall, who just happens to be the most hapless, uncoordinated, and
unlucky law enforcement officer in recent movie history.
Just how hapless is he?
Within the first few minutes of the film he’s literally running
after and shooting at his own SUV to stop it after he forgot to put it in
gear while parking it. Oh, did
I also mention that he’s on Pouncer?
HIT AND RUN tries hard to have the energizing liveliness and endlessly
verbose drollness of Tarantino, to which it somewhat succeeds.
There are, however, too much slapstick shenanigans, raunchy
innuendo, and some puerile attempts at gags in HIT AND RUN that lamentably
separates itself - for the worse - from that delectable Tarantino vibe.
Yet, Shepard as a performer has never come off as more poised and
relaxed and as a writer/director he commands some respectfully likeable
comedic performances from his very game and enthusiastic cast.
HIT AND RUN is a fairly unfussy, self-effacing, and decently made
genre-bender; it may be pawning off past films and filmmakers, but it does
so with a mostly affectionate wink and not with high-minded
pretentiousness and delusions of grandeur.