Charlie (Dax Shepard) and Annie (Kristin Bell) are in love. When she gets the opportunity of a job at a major university, Charlie offers to go with her. There’s a bit of a problem though – Charlie’s in the FBI’s Witness Protection Program and if he leaves the small town they live in, he’ll have to leave the protection he’s got (largely Tom Arnold’s US Marshal) behind.
That might be okay, but Annie’s ex (Michael Rosenbaum) is far from over her and will do anything to get her back, including finding out Charlie’s real identity and telling the men who’d love to get some payback on him where he is. This results in a mad dash across the country, with the cops, US marshals, Annie’s ex and a group of criminals (including a dreadlocked Bradley Cooper) all chasing them down. It doesn’t help either that with Charlie’s cover blown, Annie discovers the love of her life is actually an ex-getaway driver in a string of bank robberies, one of which resulted in a murder.
There’s a lot of potential in Hit & Run, but it never really coalesces into anything truly satisfying. Shepard doesn’t just star, he also wrote the script and co-directs the movie, and there is the slight feeling of this being a bit of a vanity project for him. It’s certainly not lazy, as Dax has obviously thrown everything into it, not least an almost obsessive love of cars, all sorts of which get featured in the film.
He’s also suggested the main couple is based on his real relationship with Kristin Bell, and they certainly share a great chemistry. However if this is what they’re really like, I can’t help concluding the Shepard is a bit of a dick while Bell is so ridiculously nice she’ll forgive absolutely anything.
The problem is the dialogue. The movie wants to be like early Tarantino, riffing on various subjects and going off on tangents that it then tries to pull into the main narrative. However it’s not smart or witty enough to fully work, and as a result it sometimes comes across as a little mean-spirited and silly. It’s a particular issue with Charlie, as while smarter dialogue could have made him seem thoughtless yet cool and rather charming, instead he often comes across as whiny and selfish.
It’s this issue with the sub-Tarantino dialogue that has resulted in some people accusing the movie of racism and/or homophobia. It isn’t either of those things, but the script loves trying to be edgy by taking on humour based on sexuality and ethnicity, and it’s the fact that some of these jokes land with a thud that have led to the accusations. Indeed if anything the movie is anti-homophobia (which is isn’t that surprising seeing as Bell and Shepard have vowed not to marry until equal marriage is legal), trying to make points about the negative power of using the word ‘fag’, and rather cack-handedly trying to say that being raped in prison isn’t the same as having gay sex (it’s this extended, rather muddily written sequence that more than anything led to accusations of homophobia).
Hit & Run could have been saved with some excellent car chases, but the budget means that while some are okay, it doesn’t really have the money to wow us. The result is a movie that’s passably entertaining and which should be commended for really trying hard to have interesting characters, smart dialogue and a fast pace. It’s just a shame that it slightly underwhelms on all those fronts.
Overall Verdict: It wants to be Tarantino meets Smokey And The Bandit, but never approaches that level. Hit & Run does entertain though, as long as you can forgive it its rough edges and dialogue that’s far less smart than it thinks it is.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac