Title: Hit and Run
Director: Dax Shepard, David Palmer
Starring: Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Kristin Chenoweth, Tom Arnold, Bradley Cooper, Jess Rowland, Ryan Hansen, Beau Bridges, Michael Rosenbaum, Jason Bateman
Plot: Former getaway driver Yul (Shepard) is happily enjoying his new life in witness protection under his new name of Charlie Bronson. When his girlfriend Annie (Bell) gets a job interview in LA, he is faced with running afoul of his former gang member Alexander Dmitri (Cooper)
Review: It has frequently been said that just because you can do something, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do it. A case certainly proven here with the second film from the directing team of Shepard and Palmer and made on a minuscule budget of $2 million with Shepard using cars from his own personal collection and with the help of friends in the business to get the film made. Apparently it’s a method which worked out well for the duo, especially considering how they seemingly could afford to blow half the budget was blown on securing music rights. The end result though is essentially the equivalent of a student film made with an actual budget as here, Shepard (who also wrote the screenplay) seemingly aims to recapture the spirit of “True Romance” only with added car-porn. Sadly though this is nothing but a pale copy.
Opening with Yul and his Emily in bed, it is a utterly horrible bombardment of dialogue that introduces the couple at the heart of this tale in a scene which almost had me reaching for the eject button before the film had even begun. I guess one of the main issues I had with them is the fact that they have no real chemistry which could be placed more on the fact that they are being played by the real life couple of Shepard and Bell which more often than not fails to work outside of the occasional rare exception like “Cruel Intentions” which saw the pairing of real life couple (at the time atleast) Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon to memorable effect. Why the pairing of Shepard and Bell doesn’t work it’s hard to place and perhaps might have had a lot to do with Yul being the sort of character that Sam Rockwell would have played so well and perhaps it was this desire to see him the role which made this pairing all the harder to take.
The couple unfortunately are made only the more unlikable by the sheer lack of character development outside of surface details and their general relationship, they essentially have about much depth as a puddle, while never really giving you any reason to really care about either of them, even more so when both Shepard and Bell at times give the impression that they are pretty much phoning it in. Such frustration is only really added to when they never seem to be doing anything particularly interesting bar the occasional bit of fancy driving (interestingly mainly performed by the cast due to the budget) or when Shepard decides to show off another of the fancy cars in his collection, which considering they are the real highlight here makes it more of showcase for them than anything else.
When it comes to the supporting cast things get slightly better with Tom Arnold on fun form as the fantastically clumsy and easily flustered U.S. Marshal Randy as he gives ones of his best performances since “True Lies” as he frequently has to deal with a number of escalating issues with his people carrier, which not only seems to have a mind of its own, but frequently seems to actively be trying to kill him, as it sets off his gun and even launches a bowling ball at him during one of the many specular crashes he has, which also certainly tests the endurance of the vehicle which honestly seems to be indestructible considering what its put through. Arnold’s character much like an overworked joke about a gay hook up app, really throws off the tone of the film which can never seem to decide if its supposed to be a drama or a comedy. As a result it flirts with both genres, while never fully committing to one or the other which again could be done to the generally horrible and frequently boring dialogue that while aiming for a sense of cool only to largely come off flat and uninspired.
Elsewhere Bradley Cooper proves to be another of the stronger aspects, while also getting to give us a rare villainous turn as the dog loving psychopath Alexander Dmitri who can be set off over something as simple as the type of dog food someone chooses to feed their dog. True the accent might be alittle off and the fact that Annie’s persistent ex-boyfriend Gil (Rosenbaum) is able to tip him off about Yul’s whereabouts through Facebook is beyond laughable, but here he frequently manages to come off as a decent threat to the couple, without ever having to resort to comically overplayed acts of violence outside of his introduction which proves to be more than enough to establish his character without ever needing to be added to.
Considering that half the budget was blown on the music rights for the soundtrack, its kind of a relief that this expense really pays off, with no doubt most of this expense going towards such tentpole tracks as Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which unsurprisingly are used to soundtrack the more gratuitous slow motion moments of car porn.
Overall this film was a chore to get through from the start to the finish and the sort of film which would benefit from Shepard either fully committing to acting or directing, rather than trying to do both. Perhaps then there might have been some balance to the film but had it not been down to the resources available to Shepard it would be unlikely that this film would have been made atoll, bringing back to my opening statement, that just because you can do something it doesn't mean you should do it!