' Cinema Romantico: Hit & Run

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Hit & Run

How far would you go for the woman you loved? Would you drive her across the great state of California to L.A. to interview with a university about a prestigious position in their department? Well, of course you would (I hope). But would you drive her across the great state of California to L.A. to interview with a university about a prestigious position in their department if you were in the Witness Protection Program and the villainous thugs you had testified against and that were no doubt out for vengeance were in L.A.? Ah, that’s the question that drives “Hit & Run”, which is better than its title suggests but only partially because the title is truly terrible (conjuring images of Jason Statham on a bland set in Bulgaria).


“Hit & Run” was written and co-directed by its star Dax Shepard. He is Charlie Bronson. Well, he’s actually Yule Perkins but he has changed his name to Charlie Bronson as part of his federally arranged relocation to out-of-the-way Milton, California where he has met and fallen in love with Annie (Kristen Bell), a professor at the local college with a doctorate in Non-Violent Conflict Resolution from Stanford. All is idyllic until Annie is told 1.) Of the pristine job offer in L.A. and 2.) That she is going to lose her job in Milton Valley. And despite the imminent danger awaiting him, Charlie shrugs it off and agrees to ferry Annie to L.A.

This leads to U.S. Marshal Randy Anderson (Tom Arnold), spectacularly incompetent if well-meaning, to strike out after his Witness to bring him back and it also leads to Annie’s numb-skulled over-protective ex Gil (Michael Rosenbaum) to strike out after Annie to bring her back since he is aware of Charlie’s real past – as in, he was a getaway driver for a bank robbing gang fronted by lackadaisically unhinged Alexander Dimitri (Bradley Cooper). In fact, Gil is so numb-skulled he makes Alexander aware of Charlie/Yule’s return to his old stomping grounds. Showdowns of all sorts await. 

It’s a little like dropping “Goodfellas” Henry Hill into “It Happened One Night” as the nature of Annie’s feelings change with each new revelation about her boyfriend's past. She loves him. She’s not so sure she loves him. She loves him. She’s not so sure she loves him.

The movie makes its living on kooky (not necessarily quirky) antics, like the surprisingly comedic Arnold’s marshal who can’t keep his poor van in park and can’t stop his gun from accidentally discharging bullets, and on the winning, slightly offbeat, chemistry of Shepard and Bell (who are engaged in real life).

Nevertheless, this is a Shepard triple-header and he becomes a little too intent on turning himself into a low-budget action hero by resorting to shootouts and car chases, most of which are unthrillingly filmed and go on too long. Even more problematic, though, is the way in which he sidelines his own fiancĂ© as the film progresses. He makes sure to note her Non-Violent Conflict Resolution specialty but when the screenplay reaches the inevitable gun-drawn standoff, well, it seems a perfect set-up for Bell’s Annie to non-violently resolve this conflict. Right? Wrong. More gunfire, another car chase.

In that way, Shepard's "Hit & Run" filmmaking is not unlike Marshal Randy and his persnickety van sliding into natural of its own volition at the most in-opportune times - he's got good intentions, it just sort of gets away from him.

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