Shepard’s “Hit and Run” Makes Car Chases Boring
It’s really hard to make car chases boring. Yet somehow Dax Shepard’s “Hit and Run” manages to do it. The film’s poster touts it as “A comedy that never takes its foot off the gas,” although a more accurate description is “A comedy that barely has its foot on the gas.”
“Hit and Run” focuses on Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard), a former getaway driver hiding out in the witness protection program. His life is quiet but safe: he’s got a beautiful woman Annie (Shepard’s real girlfriend Kristen Bell), and a hapless federal marshal (Tom Arnold), keeping an eye on him. Things become complicated for Charlie though when Annie is offered a career-changing job interview in his hometown of Los Angeles.
Rather than risk losing his true love, Charlie makes the unwise decision to accompany her. Naturally, trouble ensues after his former associates (Bradley Cooper and Ryan Hansen) discover that he is back in town. Expectedly they want revenge for being sold out to the authorities. Dodging his old partners is hard, but not nearly as challenging as trying to hang on to Annie. Their relationship starts to unravel, the more that she actually finds out about his unsavory past.
For a movie about a getaway driver, “Hit and Run” has surprisingly uninteresting car chases. One reason they’re so bland is the sprawling country roads where they take place. White knuckle driving is more thrilling in the city where there are tight spaces to frantically circumnavigate. Another problem is the stunt driving. Shepard’s character talks big about horsepower but when he’s behind the wheel he largely goes in circles. Finally, the cars themselves aren’t anything spectacular. Charlie’s main vehicle is a souped-up Lincoln Continental, hardly the typical car to excite gearheads. He also drives a recent model Corvette and some crazy dune buggy thing.
Unfortunately the film doesn’t compensate for its mediocre action with hilarious jokes. “Hit and Run” spins its wheels as much with laughs as it does during driving scenes. Its humor is a bizarre hodgepodge of gags, some recurring and others situational, but most of them are unfunny. Samples include politically incorrect use of the word fag, prison rape, racism, and naked old swingers that you have to suffer through twice.
For a real life couple, I was shocked that the chemistry between Shepard and Bell wasn’t stronger. They call each other “buddy” as a pet name, which may work for them, although it doesn’t come off as super affectionate. What’s sadder though is that their main characters are probably the least interesting in the bunch.
Charlie is overly touchy and protective of his past, while Annie is annoying as heck with her need to be politically correct and her burning desire to employ her conflict management skills. Tom Arnold’s inept marshal who can’t control his car or his gun is way more entertaining. Bradley Cooper’s zany dreadlocked bad guy is also intriguing, especially during a philosophical argument when he literally forces the opponent to eat his own dog food.
A movie like “Hit and Run” demonstrates the danger of an actor having too much creative control over his own project. On top of doing his own stunt driving, Shepard wrote, co-directed, co-edited, produced, and starred in this film. That much power only works for a few filmmakers out there. If Shepard had assistance from seasoned veterans with the writing and directing portions, this flick might have been a hit instead of a painful miss.
My Grade: C-
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