Writer-codirector-star Dax Shepard loves cars and loves his girlfriend Kristen Bell (possibly in that order), so he made a movie about them and invited his buddies to help him out. The result is Hit and Run, a fast and furious rom com that’s as fun for car-chase aficionados as it is romantics at heart.
Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a getaway driver exiled into witness protection in a small Central California town after testifying against his best friend and accomplice, Alex Dmitri (Bradley Cooper). (Charlie named his new identity not after the action star but after the infamous English prisoner who named himself after the action star.) Charlie’s sole source of happiness is his girlfriend, Annie Bean (Bell), an academic with a Ph.D. in nonviolent conflict resolution who’s wasting her intellect and talent at the local “jackoff of colleges.”
The movie begins with the two of them under the sheets as he gives her a super-sweet pep talk to calm her nerves about a morning meeting at work. The scene is intimate and adorable and leavened with ironic banter—a window, one feels, into the relationship between Shepard and Bell. And it’s a perfect place to start, as the whole film is an ode to romance—perhaps specifically their romance—disguised as an action comedy.
For that morning meeting, it turns out, is a job opportunity for Annie to head her own department in her field. The only catch is the position is in Los Angeles, the one place Charlie can’t go back to. Rather than lose her, though, he throws caution to the wind and breaks his souped-up 1967 Lincoln Continental out of storage to get her to the interview on time. When her ex, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), catches wind that Annie’s leaving town for good, he rats on Charlie to Alex. (For some reason, everyone in Charlie’s new life knows he’s in witness protection.) So Charlie and Annie find themselves on the run from desperate douchebag Gil; Alex, menacing despite his dreadlocks and red track pants; and bumbling U.S. Marshal Randy Anderson (Tom Arnold), who can handle neither his weapon nor his minivan.
As they’re making chase, Charlie and Annie have a few things to hash out—his violent past, for example, and his nonchalant use of the word fag. What’s both funny and endearing about Shepard’s dialogue is that his characters verbalize what they’re feeling, saying sometimes what they shouldn’t—or wouldn’t, at least, in the real world. For example, when Randy spills coffee on his lap and jumps out of his vehicle, which rolls into a neighbor’s yard where two young children are playing as he runs after it attempting to shoot out its tires, he’s hysterical and defensive, and he says, “I had an accident. I’m embarrassed.”
These exchanges aren’t always politically correct—Charlie asking after the race of Alex’s prison rapist comes to mind—but they do grapple with what’s acceptable, if not to society then between a couple. Amid inspired music selections (say, “Pure Imagination” from 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) playing over slow-motion car porn, the relationships here—even between mortal enemies—give Hit and Run heart.
Directors: David Palmer & Dax Shepard
Writer: Dax Shepard
Starring: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum, Kristin Chenoweth, Beau Bridges, Joy Bryant
Release Date: Aug. 22, 2012