Once upon a time, this film originally shared the title of famed 1980s arcade game, ‘Outrun’. There’s little else in common between the two really, other than ‘Outrun’ and ‘Hit & Run’ sharing a backbone of high-speed car chases – and, frankly, it’s for the best. I suppose it’s coincidental, but it does establish an expectation of tone that ‘Hit & Run’ doesn’t quite match. I’d never call Hit & Run original by any means, but it definitely has a unique take on the tired romantic comedy genre: pile on the action and lay into the humour.
To that end, writer-director Dax Shepard (‘Idiocracy’, ‘Zathura’)’s film in which he stars opposite real-life partner Kristen Bell (‘Veronica Mars’, ‘Burlesque’) has a surprising amount of heart. Clearly this is a vehicle (Pun? Yeah.) for Shepard and it works for him. He’s oddly relatable as an ex-getaway driver, Charlie, who’s settled into the small-town life afforded by witness protection with his girlfriend Annie and the bumbling local law enforcement (Tom Arnold), Randy.
Things go awry when Annie’s ex-beau, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), starts doing a little digging on Charlie’s past and ends up tipping off underworld heavy and bleached-dreadlocks-fan, Alex (Bradley Cooper). All of this is offset against a strange sub-plot motivation involving a critical job interview Annie must attend in Los Angeles that kickstarts a cross-country game of cat-and-mouse.
Shepard reminds me of a more macho version of Zach Braff – the kind of approachable and vulnerable guy with a goofy, almost nerdy undertone. His gawky looks and nice-guy delivery make him a charming lead to follow. Knowing he and Bell are an item also adds another degree to their chemistry. Bell herself is given plenty of decent lines to play with – though she ultimately is stuck playing the “kidnapped princess” for the better part of the tale.
Bradley Cooper (‘The A-Team’) heads up Hit & Run’s strong support cast. Cooper, who generally gets by on his charming wiles, actually delivers some genuine menace. It’s offset against his smirking delivery of course – but when he explodes in ball of anger at one unsuspecting bystander over a matter of which dog food he bought, there’s a bleak humour to it all.
I don’t think Tom Arnold (‘True Lies’, ‘Animal Factory’) gets enough roles. In this one, he channels his part in True Lies – the anxiety-laden and well-meaning but obviously the comic relief. That’s fine, given Arnold keeps the tone light and his inclusion genuinely does drive the plot forward. Whether he really fits with the younger cast is another question – it’s weird, because Hit & Run feels young, hip, cool—and Arnold is this forgotten fossil of 1980s-90s entertainment lore. It’s a quirky contrast. Maybe that’s why I like him so much here.
The other major component of Hit & Run is the action. It’s fed to us in bursts – perhaps because this isn’t an action movie as much as it’s a situational comedy. Those expecting constant chases and gunplay will see more in common with something like ‘Drive’, where the moments of tension come in spikes, rather than ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’, where vehicular action is the focus.
Unfortunately Hit & Run, despite its charms, does suffer from an overabundance of clichés. Mostly you’ll pick the twists and direction of the narrative from early on. That’s a little hard to swallow, since the rest of the film does work so hard to entertain. I was engaged, though – and that counts for a lot. The action sequences aren’t showstoppers, leaving the dialogue to bear the brunt of the popcorn entertainment weight. Largely, it’s the strength of Dax Shepard’s script and the intelligent casting that makes up for these shortcomings. If Hit & Run is guilty of being generic, it’s arguably the best kind of generic: inoffensive, well made and probably a lot more fun than Joe Critic is likely to admit.