If you watch enough TV, particularly Parenthood, there’s a good chance you’ll know who Dax Shepard is. If you’re a movie fan and rarely watch the small screen outside of the news there’s a good chance Dax Shepard is an unknown entity other than a few and usually annoying small roles in films like Employee of the Month, Idiocracy and When in Rome. In Hit and Run, Shepard is not only the lead, he wrote, co-directed and co-edited the film, so if there’s anyone to blame for this decidedly unfunny project, I think it’s fair to say we all know who takes the blame.
In Hit and Run, Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a one-time getaway driver who is now in the witness protection program and hiding away in small town California. When his girlfriend, Kristen Bell – who really, truly deserves to be in a good film one of these days – gets a wonderful new job opportunity in Los Angeles, Charlie decides to drive her in a souped-up 1967 Lincoln Continental. Big mistake. The car is still listed as being under Charlie’s real name, Yul Perkins, something that reaches the ear of bad guys who want Charlie dead.
So here we have the setup for one big chase. A buffoonish U.S. Marshal (Tom Arnold) is chasing Charlie to bring him back to the protection of the department in the small town, followed by the bad guy (Bradley Cooper) who wants him dead, followed by Kristen Bell’s idiot ex-boyfriend, who wants her back, and a young, gay cop who feels he may have a future relationship with the U.S. Marshal.
Bradley Cooper plays the bad guy, Alex, and he’s unconvincing. The script calls for his character to act tough. Perhaps the idea of casting the normally likable Cooper in the role of the villain with dreadlocks was all part of the intended, quirky nature of the piece, but you never believe for a second he’s the character he’s pretending to be. Our introduction to him revolves around a conversation regarding the ingredients of a brand of dog food – it’s a writer’s Tarantino moment – and it’s meant to illustrate Alex’s educated nature as well as his tough demeanor – he beats up a guy twice his size and gets to keep the guy’s dog – but the whole scene is unpersuasive, and worse, we never see the dog again.
Shepard’s strongest area appears to be as a writer where he occasionally shows a good ear for dialog. The opening scene has a fun exchange in the bedroom between him and the always engaging Bell. It’s both playful and naturalistic and promises something that never fully develops at any other point throughout the film, with the one exception being a conversation between an uncharacteristically foul-mouthed Kristin Chenoweth and Bell. The moment is so funny, the film floats on the potential of that one scene, until the plot kicks in with its chaotically filmed chase sequences and erratic editing and you realize it’s never getting better than those first few minutes.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 100 minutes Overall Rating: 4 (out of 10)