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Hit & Run

August 23, 2012
Hit & Run

Relationships can be difficult enough, and once you get into your thirties it’s pretty much a guarantee that anyone you meet has baggage and issues from their past that you’re going to have to deal wi and get past sooner or later. Thankfully, for most people those issues don’t include being a getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers who turned states’ evidence after a job went horribly wrong and now living in witness protection in the middle of nowhere. For that story we turn to Dax Shepard’s Hit & Run. It’s a fun little thrill ride; even if sometimes it’s a bit bumpy and uneven, it’s got a good heart that carries it through.

Charlie Bronson (Shepard) is the former driver, at least since he changed his name from Yul Perkins in order to hide out in a tiny little town five hundred miles from Los Angeles. It’s not his favorite, having grown up outside of L.A., but at least there’s his girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell). Annie, for her part, knows Charlie is in witness protection, but she’s the sort of overachieving, earnest sweetheart who carved out her own field of nonviolent conflict resolution in order to get her doctorate in it — former academics should probably be ready to grin and bear the wild inaccuracies in how the ivory tower is portrayed.

Anyway, It’s not really that important to the plot beyond her dean (Kristen Chenoweth) firing her from teaching intro sociology courses while setting her up for her dream job: a new position teaching in her field that only exists at UCLA. Which, of course, serves to uproot Charlie from the boonies and send him back to the big city where’s he might be recognized by his former associates.

And so off they go, racing to Annie’s interview in a souped-up ’67 Continental, picking up a bunch of unwanted company as they go, including Annie’s clingy douchebag of an ex (Michael Rosenbaum), Charlie’s comically inept U.S. Marshal handler (Tom Arnold), a couple local cops (Jess Rowland and Carly Hatter), and of course the bank robbers (Bradley Cooper, Joy Bryant, and Ryan Hansen).

There’s a lot of stuff going on in this script, and at times it feels like there’s a serious need for someone with a red pen to strike out what doesn’t work and fill out what does. The digression into Cooper’s character’s time in jail, in particular, strikes a particularly sour note. Annie’s background seems a mite thin as well, and while a certain iPhone app finds its use in the story, it still feels a little forced.

But at least as much hits as misses. The overall pacing is good, guiding us smoothly along without coming off like it’s been retrofit to hit a certain sequence of plot points. Some running scenes go full shakycam, but the driving is usually pretty smooth. Still, would it kill a guy to throw in a few more nice wide shots to put the cars in better perspective with their surroundings?

Overall, much of the film consists of Shepard playing around and learning his craft as a writer and a director. He’s not afraid to try some stylistic idiosyncrasies, or to try experimenting with a scene. The slow-motion peel-out as Lou Rawls’ cover of “Pure Imagination” plays is a nice touch, even if it seems a bit unnecessary.

Really what Shepard is going for is Quentin Tarantino; cinematographer Bradley Stonesifer provides an oversaturated B-movie look, and Julian Wass’ original music is even laced with marimbas in an homage to Hans Zimmer’s score to the Tarantino-penned True Romance. And while Dax Shepard is no Quentin Tarantino — not yet, anyway — he knows how to have fun with a movie, and how to let us all in on the fun with him.

Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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