August 21, 2012

Hit & Run

starhalf

A movie review by James Berardinelli



Hit & Run

ACTION/COMEDY:

United States, 2012

U.S. Release Date:

2012-08-22

Running Length:

1:40

MPAA Classification:

R (Violence, Profanity, Sexual Content, Nudity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rosenbaum, Tom Arnold, Kristen Chenoweth, Beau Bridges

Director:

David Palmer, Dax Shepard

Screenplay:

Dax Shepard

Cinematography:

Bradley Stonesifer

Music:

Robert Mervak, Julian Wass

U.S. Distributor:

Open Road Films

Subtitles:

none


For an action comedy, it's generally advisable that the movie be (a) exciting, (b) funny, or (c) both of the above. In the case of Hit & Run, the unfortunate choice is (d) none of the above. A slow, meandering misfire of a movie, this co-directorial production of David Palmer and Dax Shepard tries hard to achieve a Quentin Tarantino vibe (consider the sequence focused on the ingredients of an inferior brand of dog food) but doesn't do a good job. It's like Mozart being interpreted by someone who's tone-deaf. (I'm sure Tarantino would get a kick out being compared to Mozart.) And the ending is so flaccid that it takes a few minutes to realize that the climax has come and gone. (Women may be more familiar with that experience than men.)

Some of Hit & Run's comedy is just plain strange. Although "strange" does not necessarily equate to "funny," there's a penchant for quirkiness. Consider, for example, the hotel room occupied by a group of old naked fat people. (Note: in the trailer, they have been given CGI underwear, but there's not of that in the movie - sort of like Natalie Portman's chainmail bikini.) That's where Hit & Run earns the "nudity" in its rating content description. The scene isn't really funny (unless you find out-of-shape human bodies to be funny, which I suppose is possible - think Kathy Bates in About Schmidt) but it is unusual. Most of the material with Tom Arnold, whose character exists exclusively for comedic purposes, is more annoying than amusing.

The opening scene is illustrative of the film's overall tone. Tom Arnold's character, a Federal marshal named Randy, spills coffee on himself while driving. He pulls over to the side, gets out of the car, and forgets to put the vehicle in park. The car starts rolling away on its own with Randy in pursuit, firing his gun at it. This is more embarrassing than funny - a cartoonish scene that even Adam Sandler might reject. When it comes to the action side of the equation, Hit & Run isn't much better. There are three car chases, although two are so perfunctory that to call them "chases" might be deemed an exaggeration. There are also a couple of brief fights but that's about it.

Does Hit & Run want viewers to become invested in the characters? I suppose that's the goal, even though there's not really a likeable individual in the film and more than one is nails-on-the-blackboard annoying. Liking anyone is a chore. The protagonist is a lying slacker who constantly hides things from his girlfriend and shows little willingness to accept the consequences of his actions. The "innocent" girlfriend is whiny and self-righteous. And the villains spend too much time acting cool and reciting "hip" dialogue to be imbued with sufficient malice.

The story revolves around "Charlie Bronson" (Dax Shepard), or at least that's what he calls himself. When he entered the witness protection program after testifying against his former best friend, Alex (Bradley Cooper), in a bank robbery trial, he was permitted to trade in his birth moniker, Yul Perkins, for something more intimidating. For the past six months, he has been living in Podunk, CA with his new girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell). He loves her so much that, when she's offered the job of a lifetime in L.A., he decides to opt out of his new life and go back to the scene of the crime. That might work well if it wasn't for Annie's jealous slimy ex, Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), who does a little on-line sleuthing and discovers most of the salient details about Charlie's past. He then Facebook-friends Alex and informs him that he knows the location of his one-time best buddy and driver. This leads to the three aforementioned chases, the highlight of which occurs when Randy's SUV goes airborne.

Bradley Cooper, who has made a career out of playing nice guys, lacks the badass gene. His character is not the least bit intimidating. Dax Shepard, who co-directed and wrote the screenplay, is okay as Charlie, but he spends too much time rationalizing his actions. For Kristen Bell, this is another dead-end role that makes one wonder whether she needs a new agent. She has become so typecast that she's sleepwalking her way through these parts. Hit & Run could use a little sex appeal to liven things up, but it doesn't come from her.

The movie is typical of what gets released at this time of the year. It's the end of August and this is when studios and distributors dump their trash so those titles can arrive on DVD/Blu-Ray/streaming without the "direct to video" tag, which remains a badge of dishonor. There's no expectation on Open Road's part that this is going to do very well at the box office and, based on the quality of the production, no reason for them to be proven wrong. Even for home viewing, Hit & Run would be considered marginal - the kind of film that would not be paused for bathroom breaks and trips to the refrigerator. When it comes to movies about cars, this one's only moderately more intense than Driving Miss Daisy.

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