Mark Reviews Movies

Hit & Run


1 Star (out of 4)

Directors: David Palmer and Dax Shepard

Cast: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum, Jess Rowland, Joy Bryant, Ryan Hansen, Kristin Chenoweth, Beau Bridges

MPAA Rating: R (for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content)

Running Time: 1:40

Release Date: 8/22/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | August 21, 2012

In something of a rarity, Hit & Run manages to make us dislike just about all of its major characters within a minute of meeting them. The movie opens with obnoxious pillow talk that includes shallowly "hip" pop culture references, awkwardly "playful" accusations of venereal diseases, and questionably "good-natured" face-slapping. We always want to give even the foulest of characters the benefit of the doubt because they might turn out to be interesting, but, while there's nothing actually evil about these people, that feeling of openness to whatever these characters might offer disappears pretty quickly.

The opening scene just creates a sensation of wanting to get out of that bedroom and away from Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard, who also wrote the screenplay and co-directed the movie), which—as you might have guessed—is not his real name, and Annie (Kristen Bell) for somewhere—anywhere—else and with some people—any people—who aren't them. This feeling, as it turns out, is mistaken, since the jokes get worse and the other characters aren't much better.

Charlie, whose actual name comes from another actor who was popular in the 1960s and '70s (The revelation of the name is one of the few amusing moments in the movie), is in the Witness Protection Program after turning witness for the prosecution against his former partners in a string of bank robberies. He was their getaway driver. It's been four years since that all happened.  After a year, things are getting serious with Annie. He's hesitant to tell her about the details of his past life, lest she leave him.

Debby (Kristin Chenoweth), the head of the local community college where Annie teaches, has other plans in store. After a long rant about how men have the tendency to keep women from living up to their full ambitions, Debby gives Annie an ultimatum: Take an interview for a job at a university in Los Angeles, where the dean has created a position just for her, or be fired.

That conversation, like the one in the bedroom that starts the movie, gets to the core of the unpleasant nature of Shepard's screenplay. Debby's heart-to-heart talk with Annie has some valid points, and they come at the beginning of the scene. The scene then goes further, letting Debby reveal more than too much information about her own past experiences until the point that the scene becomes uncomfortable and she starts to become a grating presence.

The script continues this unfortunate tendency with the rest of the characters. Charlie's protection, a U.S. Marshal named Randy (Tom Arnold), enters the movie with a big, unlikely gag in which he accidentally spills coffee on himself while on the phone, gets out of his van, and has to chase it as the vehicle gets out gear and rolls down a hill, around some turns, and straight toward two girls playing in their front yard. His on-the-fly decision to stop the van is to pull out his gun and start shooting at. We assume he's aiming for the tires but winds up firing fairly close to the girls. If reckless endangerment like that is meant to be endearing, it's a complete miscalculation.

Randy's other traits are that he is prone to misfiring his weapon and that he hides his sexuality. By comparison, that latter characteristic is slightly less stereotypical than Terry (Jess Rowland), a Sheriff's deputy who has an application on his phone that lets him track down other gay men in the area (Again, his introductory scene goes on and on until it the stereotype becomes tiringly solidified), or a conversation between Charlie and Annie in which she explains why he shouldn't use one derogatory term—all the while comfortably saying it herself—by comparing it to another—all the while shortening it to "the N-word."

Anyway, Charlie decides he can't live without Annie and packs up their things in his souped-up, custom car so that they can start a new life in L.A., where his past troubles occurred. On their tail are Annie's ex-boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), who is a possessive freak, and Charlie's old accomplices Alex Dimitri (Bradley Cooper), Neve (Joy Bryant), and Allen (Ryan Hansen). Alex wants revenge because he was violated in jail; Charlie is strangely fixated on what the assailant's race was.

None of this is funny, and all that keeps Hit & Run from the absolute dredges are the car chases that serve as interludes between the sections of plot. Shepard and co-director David Palmer show some competence in these sequences, even if they are routine and offer little in the way of excitement (One simply has cars driving in a circle on an abandoned airfield). It says something that something so bland looks better than everything else.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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