A frenetic retro road movie that makes the most of its unlikely ensemble cast as Dax Shepard lives out his own fantasies on screen.
Dax Shepard’s self-styled action vehicle is something that we’ve not seen since the heyday of the action road-trips of the 1970s, and while the lead may not be a household name, you wouldn’t know it from watching this throwback to a previously bygone era of action comedies. The star of TV’s Parenthood re-teams with his Brother’s Justice (2010) co-director David Palmer for an interesting hybrid of everything from Burt Reynolds to Quentin Tarantino, literally pouring half of its low-budget into the soundtrack.
Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) is a former getaway driver who has gone into the witness protection program under the watch of the inept Randy Anderson (Tom Arnold). When his girlfriend Annie Bean (Kristen Bell) is offered a job across the country, he decides to throw caution to the wind to be with the woman he loves. However, her ex Gil Rathbinn (Michael Rosenbaum) is determined to expose whatever secrets ‘Charlie’ is hiding. Enter Bronson’s former partner-in-crime Alex Dimitri (Bradley Cooper), who is just as likely to care for your dog as break your nose.
There is an unmistakable energy to Hit and Run that never loses momentum for a second. For a film that runs on its own fumes, Shepard and company overcome the generic nature of their title to deliver a vehicle-swapping caper that literally runs through the contents of Shepard’s garage. Not content to have his name on the credits as star, writer and co-director, Shepard’s collection of cars – from his classic hot rod Lincoln Continental to the insane off-road racer – are also legitimate stars in this goofy and infectiously fun road flick.
Keeping things light is a genuine ensemble cast, ostensibly led by Shepard, who is in reality under the shadow of his star girlfriend Bell. The duo have an easy chemistry on-screen, giving star performances in a film that only had a budget of $2 million. The real surprise here is Bradley Cooper, a leading man in his own right, happily relegated to the dreadlocked thug with a heart of gold, imbued with a surprising amount of depth but an even better sense of comic timing. Even Tom Arnold, mostly seen in direct-to-video dreck these days, restrains his typically one-note stylings for a caricature that knows just how much of the spotlight he can soak up before handing it back over to the lead.
Essentially one long chase, Shepard and Palmer cleverly keep track of all the loose ends so that the ar chases, kidnapping and gunplay all make sense within this often witty and motor-mouthed script. The bastard redheaded stepchild of Doug Liman’s Go (1999) and Cannonball Run (1981), perhaps put into the foster care of a Death Proof (2007) during its formative years, Hit and Run is a loving tribute to itself – but also a slew of movies that inspired it. Shift yourself into neutral and let the film do the driving, it will be more fun that way.
Hit and Run is released on 6 September 2012 from Pinnacle Films.