An easygoing romantic comedy-cum-chase movie, Hit and Run is obviously a labor of love for writer-director-star Dax Shepherd, who cast himself in the lead and real-life wife Kristen Bell as his love interest. This is a chase comedy that has a reverence for the expected motorhead elements, but also contains a tender side and shows real care for its characters.
Shepard stars as “Charles Bronson”, who has been living under an assumed identity in the witness protection program in rural California after testifying against bank robber and ex-partner Alex (Bradley Cooper).
Charlie’s real name is Yul Perkins (named after Yul Brynner), but he was allowed to pick his own name in the program. Why Bronson? After the famed British prisoner, who named himself after the actor. Hah!
Charlie’s girlfriend Annie (Bell), a nonviolent conflict resolution major in college, has just been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to head the new nonviolent conflict resolution program (the first of its kind) at a Los Angeles university. Of course, this would require a move to Los Angeles, where Alex and Charlie’s other ex-partners reside and presumably still bear a grudge.
A mix of supporting characters complicate the issue: Annie’s ex Gil (Michael Rosenbaum) fears for her safety and begins to dig into Charlie’s past, with the help of his patrolman brother Terry (Jess Rowland); bumbling U.S. Marshall Randy Anderson (Tom Arnold) fears for Charlie’s safety and trails him to L.A.; and the usual road movie characters present obstacles along the way.
Hit and Run is a low-key, low-budget affair that can be called amusing or amiable rather than outright funny, but it has one rare quality that really keeps it afloat: likeability. I really enjoyed spending time with these characters, even the villains (dreadlocked Cooper, in an unusual role, is having a lot of fun here when extolling the virtues of proper dog food).
But most of all Shepherd and Bell; the mantra he repeats to her really comes from the heart (“Close your eyes. Take a deep breath. There is no yesterday. No tomorrow. There is only this moment.”)
Of course, automobiles also dominate the film, particularly Charlie’s beautifully-restored black 1967 Lincoln Continental and a Class One Tatum buggy that proves handy during the film’s climax. Incredibly, both of these vehicles actually belong to Shepard, who wasn’t afraid to use them in potentially dangerous chase scenes. Casting his wife is one thing, but yes, he’s just that committed to the movie.
The action, however, is on the lighter side; Shepard favors skilled driving over wreckage-inducing stunt work, and while Hit and Run does feature a number of chase scenes, it really isn’t the descendent of (1971’s) Vanishing Point or (1974’s) Gone in 60 Seconds.
A familiar soundtrack features a host of well-chosen songs, from Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion to The Dazz Band’s Let it Whip and Lou Rawls’ rendition of Pure Imagination, which was previously memorably sung by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Stick around during the credits for an amusing scene featuring Sean Hayes.