If you took a twee indie romantic comedy, injected it with a little hard-edged violence and spliced in dynamic car footage culled from a Top Gear ‘best of’ compilation, the result would resemble something close to Hit and Run.
The brainchild of ex-Punk’d contributor and supporting TV and film comedy actor, Dax Shepard (he stars, wrote and co-directed) he’s also managed to corral a number of his famous friends to appear alongside him here (the biggest name being Bradley Cooper, who plays his dreadlocked ex-BBF turned foe) as well as current squeeze Kristen ‘Sarah Marshall’ Bell.
She also plays his onscreen girlfriend Annie, a college lecturer whom his character, Charles Bronson (a chosen pseudonym) has hooked up with during his time in the Witness Protection Program. Although he has somewhat skated over revealing the true extent of his past indiscretions, the two are very much in love. So much so in fact, that Charles is willing to jeopardise his safety and stability in order to help get Annie to Los Angeles where a new job for her potentially awaits.
In doing so, he gives the runaround to the friendly, yet woefully inept US Marshal assigned to look after him (Tom Arnold), Annie’s slimy ex (Smallville’s Michael Rosenbaum) and the aforementioned friend (Cooper), who is out of jail and looking for some payback.
While it may not be the most riveting premise, Shepard and co-director David Palmer manage to inject enough goofy energy and pleasingly off-kilter moments throughout to make amends for the flimsy story. The somewhat unusual mix of genres actually works in the film’s favour, and the CGI-free car scenes are deftly handled (although more often than not, look more like showboating displays of Gymkhana racing rather than genuine chases) and the unforced chemistry between the two real-life lovers helps to sell the romantic aspects of the film.
Shepard (a more familiar fixture to US audiences) is a solid lead, and all his co-stars turn in pretty decent performances, without any of them ever resorting to trying to steal the film (probably an conscious decision, given their personal ties to the actor). There is something genuinely refreshing about seeing an actor on the cusp of A-list stardom like Cooper, playing a supporting role and dialling it down when the perceived route for someone in his position would be to hog as much space as humanly possible. In doing so, he’s able to bring a sympathetic slant to a largely unsavoury character – a nice touch which may have been absent, had a lesser actor been cast.
It’s fair to say Hit and Run is a film which won’t bother the latter half of box office top ten upon its release, and will almost certainly find the majority of its audience on the small screen. That said, it’s a good-natured, if inconsequential, thrill ride, and Shepard more than proves he’s up to the task when it come to multitasking. It will be interesting to see what he does next time around.