‘I’ ON CULTURE
I did not have high hopes for Hit & Run, the comedy that just opened. It is part of that end-of-summer/beginning-of-fall movie season that usually signifies not good enough to either be a summer blockbuster or a movie deserving consideration for awards. But it was a decent, enjoyable “B” movie. There were no real surprises, and the plot was a bit threadbare, but an attractive cast with a deft manner of handling wisecracks left me with a pretty good feeling as I left the theater.
Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) actually chose his own name when he went into the Witness Protection Program. He and his girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell), live an idyllic existence in rural California where she teaches at a local college. Then a well-meaning boss (Kristin Chenoweth) recommends her for a dream job, but she would have to live in Los Angeles, a place that Charlie needs to avoid.
He decides that he’ll risk taking her there since L.A. is a big place, not knowing that her former boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum) has penetrated his identity and notifies the people Charlie has testified against that he is coming. Led by Alex Dimitri (a very strange-looking Bradley Cooper), they begin a long chase to get him. In the middle of the whole mess, a likable but almost totally incompetent U.S. marshal named Randy (Tom Arnold), assigned to protect Charlie, manages to muddle his way through a long series of sight gags usually centered on firing his weapon at inopportune times and destroying his own car.
The plot occasionally meanders, but the cast is so likable it barely matters. Shepard, who wrote and co-directed the movie, comes across as both a pleasant slacker and a man who actually has a sense of integrity. He manages to be a screw-up, a philosopher and a man of real feelings — and somehow carries them all off. Listening to him defending his not telling his girlfriend that he had helped rob 13 banks but should not be judged because he is now a “different person” is hilarious.
Bell handles the part of the one really sane person in the film really well. Her relationship with Shepard’s character seems real, possibly because she is actually engaged to the actor. There are real sparks between them. Their relationship is one of the more interesting ones in recent movies. They love, they battle and they clearly care for each other throughout. That relationship is one of the factors that raises this movie into the plus column.
Cooper is hilarious as Charlie’s former partner in crime (somewhere in the middle of the film, Charlie becomes more known by his previous, real identity, Yul Perkins) who has quite a few grievances. The central one is the money from the robberies buried on the Perkins farm (Beau Bridges has a great cameo as Charlie/Yul’s father who winds up in a couple of key scenes); then there’s his eight months in jail while awaiting trial. Yul’s testimony was so tainted that he was not convicted, but he was raped in jail. The discussions of the rape were as unpolitically correct as might be imagined, but somehow manage to avoid ruining the comic mood. He plays totally against type, and it works quite well.
There are a lot of very good performances. Joy Bryant is excellent as one of the gang chasing Charlie. Watching him explain to Annie that her character was a “former fiancée” was priceless. But she was both gorgeous and persuasive. Arnold was funny and managed to divert us from plot holes throughout the film. His relationship with highway cop Terry (Jess Rowland) worked well.
In many ways, the film reminded me of the old Road movies from a half-century ago as the lead characters wandered through California, encountering strange types and having adventures that occasionally had nothing at all to do with the main plot.
This is not a bad film at all. I look forward to more films by Shepard. He has an excellent comic touch that moves the film into the plus column. Keep in mind, it does not match the best of the summer films, but if you want a fun comedy that requires almost no thought to appreciate, this may be for you.