The film: Hit & Run (2012)


The Principals: Dax Shepard (Yul Perrkins a.k.a Charlie Bronson), Kristen Bell (Annie Bean), Bradley Cooper (Alex Dmitri), Tom Arnold (Randy Anderson), Kristin Chenoweth (Debby Kreeger), Michael Rosenbaum (Gil Rathbinn), Beau Bridges (Clint Perrkins).  Written and produced by Dax Shepard.  Co-directed by David Palmer and Dax Shepard

The Premise: Yul Perrkins is living a new life in Milton, California under the name of Charlie Bronson.  See, Yul… er, Charlie has been placed into the Witness Protection Program after testifying as a witness to a bank robbery.  Though he’s had to start from scratch with a new identity in the middle of nowhere, Charlie is happy with his life – it’s quiet and he gets to start over.  He’s even got an amazing girlfriend who has a doctorate in the self-created major of Non-Violent Conflict Resolution and has dreams of being the first to head a department for it someday.  In fact, the only problem he really has is that Randy, the U.S. Marshall assigned to look after him, is a bit incompetent.  He’s a blumbering clod who frequently discharges his firearm by accident and can’t seem to keep his vehicle in park when he’s not in it.

Unfortunately, Kristen Bell never got the memo about not going "full retard" just to get an Oscar.

Unfortunately, Kristen Bell never got the memo about not going “full retard” just to get an Oscar.

But despite the random gunshots zinging through the neighbour’s yard, Charlie doesn’t have much to complain about… until his girlfriend gets an offer for her dream job in Los Angeles and has to leave immediately for an interview.  This initially doesn’t sit well with Charlie, as being in Witness Protection prevents him from going with her.  This problem is compounded by the fact that L.A. is where the events leading to his relocation took place.  After some thought and a realization of just how important Annie is to him, Charlie decides to blow off relocation and take her to her interview personally – a move he decides not to inform his handler of.

A second wrench is thrown into the works when Charlie and Annie have to stop by her ex-boyfriend Gil’s house to retrieve her teaching certificate.  The wrench that has been pitched into the mix is this: Gil is a little obsessive/possessive of Annie.  He’s still believes that Annie and he will end up together, a delusion that fuels his hatred for Charlie.  Convinced that there is something more sinister to Charlie’s relocation, Gil will do anything to get the ex-Yul out of the picture so that he and Annie can get back together and live happily ever after in Creeptown, Stalkerhoma.  Gil gets his chance when he convinces his sheriff brother to dig up some information on Charlie.  This leads him to the Facebook page of Alex Dmitri – the head of the group involved in the bank robbery.  Gil immediately tips Dmitri off to Charlie’s whereabouts.

Meanwhile, Annie and Charlie begin their trek to L.A. in Charlie’s custom-mod Lincoln Continental – a vehicle he had previously told Annie didn’t run and was confined to his garage.  Little by little, details of Charlie’s previous life as Yul start to come to light as they continue their journey to Annie’s interview.  This forces Annie to start questioning if the man she fell in love with is someone she really knows at all.  Unfortunately, with Dmitri, Gil, U.S. Marshall Randy, and the local sheriffs hot on their heels, Annie won’t have much time to discuss this with Charlie.  Or Yul.

Is It Good? I noticed that Hit & Run currently has a Fresh Rating of 48% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Roger Ebert gave it a 3 and a half out of four stars when he reviewed the film.  Roeper, on the other hand, said it was “the worst”.  Now, I’m not saying that either gentleman is the authority when it comes to whether or not a film is good.  Instead, what I’m trying to point out is the fact that this movie seems to divide folks right down the middle.  Even the “Audience” rating on RT is at 51%.  Based on that, I feel like the answer to this question is – flip a coin.  You may watch this on a rainy Tuesday night and enjoy the hell out of it.  Then again, you may catch this on a Saturday afternoon after doing yard work out in the hot sun and wish that ball of blaze had forced you to spontaneously burst into flames before you decided to pluck this from your Netflix queue for a look-see.

Personally, I fall on the Ebert side of it, and not just because we did a tribute to the man not too long ago within the hallowed halls of CHUD’s Movie of the Day column.  For a project that seems to stem from a personal passion of Shepard’s, his first foray is a pretty solid effort.  The low budget and indie feel are apparent.  For example, the locations used for shooting look like places Shepard picked because they were owned by someone he knew.  It’s a small film and feels like it, but most of that feeling goes away once the action starts to ramp up.  Shepard manages to craft a love story that also happens to be a chase film with some impressive car ballet going on in the chase sequences.

Further Matrix sequels just continued to get worse.

Further Matrix sequels just continued to get worse.

I think part of what makes that love story work is the chemistry between Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard.  Of course, it helps that they are engaged in real life.  Their off-screen relationship lends credence to their onscreen romance and makes it feel genuine.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed watching the two of them alternate between playful banter and fighting throughout the film.  It certainly made me appreciate Bell more, as I haven’t really thought much of her acting previously.  In short, their relationship is the heart of the film, and it does a good job of carrying the weight.

That’s not to say that Dax’s friends are slouching on the job.  Everyone brings their A-game to their performance.  Cooper is as good here as he is anywhere else.  It’s fun watching him play a criminal out for revenge.  Tom Arnold hasn’t been this good since True Lies, and hasn’t been this visible since he stepped out from behind Roseanne.  He tackles the antics of his character with fervor and has fun with it.  Even Rosenbaum stands out as the possessive ex-boyfriend, which is refreshing after being almost singularly known as Lex Luthor for so long thanks to Smallville.  It’s a solid cast, and their combined antics help make this quite an enjoyable ride.

Getting back to the “car ballet” that I mentioned above, I found myself quite impressed with the vehicle play throughout Hit & Run.  Even more impressive is that Dax Shepard choreographed all of the chase and stunt driving sequences throughout the film, even going so far as to do all of his own stunts himself.  The result is some inspired sequences that are sheer fun to watch.

One important note about this movie is that I ended up going blind twice during the film.  It’s no secret that Dax Shepard got his start working for Ashton Kutcher as an actor for Punk’d.  Apparently, some of that rubbed off on ol’ Dax, because he manages to pull a pretty eye-gouging prank on anyone watching this movie.  Twice.  Granted, I kind of saw it coming (get it?) the second time around, but he still got me.  I actually had to pause the film the first time it happened as I was laughing so hard while at the same time trying to scrub my eyes clean.  I won’t spoil it for you, but I will give you a hint: when life hands you lemons…

With all of the positive things I’ve said about Hit & Run, I’m actually having a hard time coming up with any flaws or issues I had with it.  I’m certain some people who end up on the other side of the coin may site a dislike for Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, or any one of the cast members in the film.  I know I’ve read a few bad reviews stating that the film lacked excitement, that the balance between humour and action was uneven or that it’s just plain not funny.  Honestly, I don’t see it.  Each element of the film – the comedy, the romance, the action – they all worked well individually for me.  And when put together they were able to cover for each other when something didn’t quite hit (or run).  That said, I gladly defend my side of the coin.  Hit & Run is a fun flick.

Tom Arnold's reality show about hunting his ex-wives never quite took off.

Tom Arnold’s reality show about hunting his ex-wives never quite took off.

Is It Worth a Look? It is.  Like it or hate it, no matter which side of the coin that lands face up for you, I think it’s worth a view to decide for yourself.  And it’s currently on Netflix Instant, which means that it’s readily available for most people.

Random Anecdotes: Dax Shepard managed to slap this project together with his closest friends and his fiancée Kristen Bell, even going so far as getting them to star in it.  It has been estimated that since the release of this film at least ten thousand people are now trying to become Shepard’s closest friends.

Two of the main vehicles used in the film – the custom Lincoln Continental and the off-road racer – are part of Shepard’s personal collection.  As an avid racer in his off hours, Shepard even did all of his own stunt driving.  Tom Arnold was also forced to do all of his own stunts, as no one else wanted to be Tom Arnold.

Cinematic Soulmates: Killers, Seven Psychopaths, The Bounty Hunter, The Whole Nine Yards, True Romance