Think back to last year’s indie hit Drive. Now imagine that Ryan Gosling’s Driver has made a new life for himself in a rural town. He has a girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell), a hazard-prone US Marshall (Tom Arnold) enforcing his Witness Protection status, and now instead of driving the getaway car, he’s kind of a warmhearted slacker named Charlie (Dax Shepard). Add a healthy dash of Smokey & The Bandit, and you basically have Hit & Run a fun dark comedy/chase movie. The chasers, of course, are Charlie’s former associates whom he testified against (Bradley Cooper), and Annie’s obsessive ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum).
Hit & Run is a perfect rainy afternoon movie. The comedy packs a few, shall we say, interesting moments, but the punchlines remain effective (despite there being a few set pieces that feel like they originated as stand-up routines). The chase sequences in this film range from being serious attempts at suspense to downright tongue in cheek displays of street-racing lunacy. The visceral enjoyment of this is bolstered by the use of real cars throughout, and the driving, while skillfully impressive, remains realistic. It points directly to the fact that there isn’t an overwhelming style to the film, but in a way it’s kind of refreshing. And it keeps the momentum of the film going in spite of the meandering plot, which is necessary to the success of any road trip movie.
What really makes Hit & Run stand above other films in this genre (including the flashy, CGI-enhanced Fast & Furious franchise) is the central relationship and chemistry between the characters played by real-life couple Shepard and Bell. Writer/director/actor Shepard is smart enough to use the film’s quieter moments to explore their relationship with meaningful dialogue, giving the story a grounded center with surprising heart amidst all the chaos and Bradley Cooper’s inexplicable blonde dreadlocks.
I wasn’t expecting much from Hit & Run, but from these lowered expectations came some fun surprises and a decent time at the theater.
Hit & Run opens today in Philly-area theaters.