In Hit & Run, Annie (played by Kristen Bell) gets a dream job offer in Los Angeles and an opportunity to move out of a hick town. Her boyfriend, Charlie né Yul Perkins (Bell’s real-life fiancé Dax Shepard), decides to take Annie to her interview via automobile — even though Charlie can’t leave their town of Milton Valley because he’s in witness protection.
To make the plot more interesting, it happens that Los Angeles is the location of Dmitri (Bradley Cooper), Alex (Ryan Hansen), and Neve (Joy Bryant), three people who want Charlie dead.
Just in case there wasn’t enough of a story, Annie’s ex-boyfriend Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), alerts Dmitri and company to Charlie’s and Annie’s every move.
Set against great desert backdrop views and more speeding cars than a Bourne film, Hit & Run, while being an expensive ad campaign for Chevrolet, Cadillac and Pontiac, is ultimately the story of how Annie learns the real reason Charlie is in witness protection. Without ruining too much of the plot: Charlie used to be a bad boy.
Don’t let the title – which sounds more like a gritty drama about a group of high school kids who accidentally run over someone and speed away – fool you. This is a film about love and the cost of our past invading our current relationships. How much is too much baggage?
Then again, this film can’t be taken too seriously especially when one factors in Cooper’s awesomely bad wig. That wig, in itself, is a crime.
On closer attention, there are other, more serious themes at play. Addressed are homophobia, racial stereotyping and the taboo F-word: fag. Also addressed — supposedly a major plot point — is the little matter of a bank robbery gone awry. Charlie, Dmitri, and company used to rob banks together. It’s all fun and games until someone gets shot.
Writer/director Shepard (with writing help from David Palmer) attempts to make Hit more than just another road trip movie. Charlie and Annie have existential conversations about how saying “something is for fags” is not a good slang term for “lame.” Addressing bad social mores in a comedy isn’t necessarily a new ideal, and is a welcome change from the norm, given the current climate of superheroes and supernatural beings at a theater near you.
That said, Hit & Run is a decent film. It works best as a date night film, highlighting Annie’s and Charlie’s almost perfect relationship and subtle way of compromising their issues with minimal arguments.
Shepard manages to hold his own for this effort, despite the sneakily aggressive attempt to show that racism and social phobias are a product of ignorance. Cooper’s Dmitri terrorizing of a big, strong black man because he was feeding his own dog cheap dog food, is out of line. Making said black man eat said cheap dog food seemed the equivalent of a white man putting his booted foot on a black man’s neck. There’s also a very dark joke about prison rape.
As for performances, Bell and Shepard play well with each other. Their relationship feels lived-in, as it should, given their off-camera relationship. It’s almost as if the audience is getting a sneak peek into their private lives.
Cooper and Bryant, as a couple, try to do impressions of a wannabe Rasta and a ghetto black chick, respectively. What’s disrespectful is that they don’t pull off their characters and lack chemistry.
Tom Arnold, who serves as Charlie’s “protector” and U.S. Marshal friend Randy, is a tired throwaway. There’s really no use for him in this film, as it does more harm (ahem, lots of damage), than good.
While Hit & Run doesn’t muster up enough social muscle to be taken seriously, it is still a good film to watch with your honey, just that one time. Because the real theme of the film – the one Shepard should have stuck with – is Annie’s and Charlie’s relationship.
* Pictured above is Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard.