‘Hit and Run’ a crashing success
Updated: August 24, 2012 8:34AM
‘Hit and Run’
One thing you definitely don’t want when you’re driving your girlfriend cross-country to interview for a dream job is high-speed pursuit by assorted homicidal maniacs and a well-intentioned but dangerously incompetent federal marshal.
That’s basically a given, wouldn’t you say?
But that’s the situation in the surprisingly entertaining action-comedy-romance “Hit and Run,” written, co-directed and starring the occasionally under-performing comic actor Dax Shepard. If you enjoy any of the genres involved here, from car-chase epics to romantic comedies, you’re likely to find it a pleasant surprise. For one thing, it places an emphasis on intelligent dialogue; for another, it’s a remarkably gay-friendly action film.
The set-up is fairly simple. After misspending most of his early life as a getaway driver for a bank-robbing gang, including former best friend Alexandre (Bradley Cooper), Charlie Bronson (Shepard) has spent four years in witness protection in a small-town purgatory, and fallen in love with smart and funny Annie (Kristen Bell), a teacher at the local community college. When Annie is offered the chance of a lifetime to head a new department teaching nonviolent conflict resolution at a university in Los Angeles, she offers to turn it down for Charlie’s sake. But he refuses to let her go and decides to leave witness protection and drive straight for the town where he knows his old gang is still looking for him — after Charlie testified against them to protect an old girlfriend.
That move upsets Randy (Tom Arnold), the accident-prone federal marshal who has also become Charlie’s friend. Also Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), Annie’s old boyfriend. They both set out to keep track of Charlie, Gil having called Charlie’s old pals to alert them he’s headed their way.
Soon, Charlie’s driving 127 mph in his souped-up vintage Lincoln Continental, trying to stay ahead of the three-way pursuit by Randy, Gil and Alexandre (a friendly, soft-spoken, extremely violent sort of guy), who wants Charlie’s buried share of a bank robbery gone wrong — and possibly to kill him as well. Annie, meanwhile, begins to grow increasingly suspicious of Charlie’s story that he simply witnessed a murder in the bank.
Fortunately, lanky-haired, laid-back Charlie is also exceptionally violence-capable and perfectly willing to resolve the situation that way. But Annie, of course, won’t let him: “I am not going to live with a guy who beats up other guys on the side of the road; I’m not going to teach non-violence and marry Dog the Bounty Hunter.”
Their future together is severely compromised when Charlie tells her the whole truth about his past — and that becomes the front-and-center subject matter for the latter part of the film. Fortunately for action fans, the male/female negotiations are intermittently interrupted by crazed car chases. And, fortunately for comedy fans, even the action is surprisingly funny in a thoughtful sort of way. For one thing, Shepard underscores that all the male characters are more motivated by fear of embarrassment than fear of violent death. And then there’s that business about a
surprise attraction between two of the men caught up in the chase, which is handled with just as much restraint, on the sexual side, as Shepard applies to Charlie’s relationship with Annie.
There are some logical gaps here and there that might torment you after you leave the theater but, overall, “Hit and Run” satisfies by working in almost all the genres it interpolates, while most genre efforts have a hard time meeting expectations in just one. ~.