From the trailers alone I would not have pegged Hit and Run as an indie movie. The leads are attractive familiar faces, the images are shiny happy action-comedy images, and quips and barbs are traded in a way that calls to mind more ambitiously-budgeted movies.
So imagine my surprise when I found out that the film is actually a friends-and-family movie made for two million dollars (yeah more than you and I and Joe Home-Filmmaker can afford). I suspected something was off when the movie opened and we are treated to a long scene of Charlie Bronson (Dax Shepard) waking his girlfriend Annie (Kristen Bell) with some new age mumbo-jumbo that sounds good in the moment and generates that ‘what the Deepak Chopra did he just say’ feeling afterwards.
Another way one could figure out that this is an indie movie is that it takes its time getting to the point we know is coming from all the trailers we’ve seen. Which basically already told us that Charlie is in witness protection, that Tom Arnold plays the Marshall assigned to watch over Charlie and that Bradley Cooper is the man Charlie is hiding from. Okay, sounds cool. Let the fireworks begin! Right?
Charlie and Annie take a helluva long time getting to that place where Annie needs to get to LA for a job interview that will allow her to lead a more fulfilled life.
Now get this, Annie knows that Charlie is in witness protection. She knows he can never go back to LA. And she has grown-up understanding so she knows people don’t get put into witness protection for breaking somebody’s fingernail in a runaway nail file incident. And still, all that matters to her, is that she go to LA and interview for this job. Which, if you think about it,
But this is a movie—written, co-directed and edited by Mr. Shepard—so caution is thrown to the wind, a growling muscle car is retrieved from the garage, and the happy couple saddle up for Annie’s rendezvous with fate, a better job and whatever else the City of Angels has to offer.
As I write this I realize how goofy it all sounds but Bell and Shepard make it work. Maybe it helps that they are a real life couple. Or they are just good enough actors to pull off the on-screen chemistry these two have. But…it is really tough to figure out what they were trying to do with this film.
Tonally it is all over the place. It is kind of romantic, there are the action elements—which mostly consist of Mr. Shepard driving cars pretty darn fast—and there is the very real threat of what will happen when Alex Dmitri (Cooper) finds Charlie. And all of it never quite sits right together.
Hit and Run is not a bad movie. It gets points for effort, for doing more with a limited budget than most filmmakers manage with ten times the money, and for the leading pair. She is really easy on the eyes. He has a likable air that one can’t go out and buy. Still, to my mind Hit and Run is an ‘it came up on cable and I was too lazy to change the channel’ type of movie.
If you paid nothing to watch it, it would probably be okay. I just can’t see people putting themselves through the expense and effort of watching it in a theatre.
I went into Hit and Run without having watched a trailer or read a synopsis. I walked out glad I had watched it. You don’t really need me to give you plot and setting and background story to understand what I liked about the film.
I enjoyed the writing – and not just the romantic banter. The sequence that impressed me the most was the introductory scene for Alex Dmitri (the asshole that is Bradley Cooper’s character). You’d think Hollywood has used every trick in the book to effectively introduce a villain but this one proves that there is definitely room to grow.
It was, to use a favourite from the Indian reviewer’s vocabulary, ‘refreshing’ to see the romantic leads in a relationship that is something other than cutesy nicknames, PDA at one end of the spectrum and random hissy fits at the other. These are two adults, they’ve been together a year in the film and they behave like it. There’s room to be playful, affectionate and considerate, but also the very real pitfalls of being oversensitive, inappropriate, and sometimes judgmental. It all comes together in a royal messy mess but it’s alive and breathing and kind of like love in real life no?
The film is not without its problems. It was going really well as a sort of comedy-of-life type of film and then around the 3/4th mark it turned into a bit of an over-the-top indie laugh fest where nothing was serious and suddenly everything was open to being joked about. The end felt kind of rushed and like a bit of a farce.
I first watched the lead actress Kristen Bell, as the feisty Veronica Mars in the TV show of the same name and have enjoyed watching her in a variety of projects since then. She does comedy well, she does drama without taking it over the top and she looks like she can kick serious butt. She’s tiny but she’s not a lightweight. I was aware of actor Dax Shepard but only vaguely so he was a revelation in this movie. The last time I watched someone on screen that was so genuine, low-key, earnest but witty, good hearted but not a pushover, was probably John Cusack when he just started out. Shepard wrote, co-directed and co-edited the film as well and I will keep an eye out for his future work. Plus he drives some mean cars in the film and he did his own stunts!
I’d say go check out Hit and Run this weekend. It’s a small movie, a home-made labour of love (slightly higher standards when you are long-working Hollywood actors) but it’s fun, features some good characters and is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
So there you have it: two views on the same film. If you do venture out to check out Hit and Run this weekend, please drop us a comment to let us know whose point-of-view you agreed with more.