"Hit & Run” sets out to be an offbeat farce and succeeds in accomplishing just that. It customarily resembles the formula of a Coen Brother’s comedy with smartly written incompetent criminals and some of the most fun chases since “Raising Arizona.” The film doesn’t reach the same heights of the Coen’s best work like “Fargo” or “The Big Lebowski.” But the fact that it merits any comparison at all should be a huge compliment to Dax Shepard, the director, co-writer, and star of “Hit & Run.”
The remotely unknown Shepard is Charlie Bronson, a man who testified against two violent bank robbers and is now under the Witness Protection Program’s guard. He lives a content life with Annie, his girlfriend played by Kristen Bell. Charlie has told Annie about his Witness Protection status and she assumes that all the cards are on the table. The only thing Charlie failed to mention was that he was actually the getaway driver for all those robberies.
When Annie gets a job offer in Los Angeles, Charlie is confronted with the decision of maintaining his new identity or staying with the girl he loves. Going against his better judgment, Charlie decides to pack his bags and drive Annie to L.A. This choice doesn’t sit well with Tom Arnold’s Randy, the bumbling Witness Protection marshal in charge of defending Charlie. Also apprehensive to the idea is Gil, Annie’s ex-boyfriend played by Michael Rosenbaum of “Smallville” in a very funny performance. In a ploy to get Annie back, Gil contacts the criminals Charlie betrayed, lead by Bradley Cooper’s dreadlocked, dog obsessed Alex. It then becomes a bit of a rat race with everybody chasing after Charlie and his girl.
In addition to the names mentioned above, “Hit & Run” includes some capital cameos from Kristin Chenoweth, Jason Bateman, and Beau Bridges. The primary reason the film works though is due to the appealing chemistry between Charlie and Annie, which feels surprisingly genuine.
Granted, no couple will ever be under the same circumstances as these people. Underneath the improbability though, Shepard and Bell do a lustrous job at creating characters that are charming, funny and a lot of fun when paired together. A conversation about substituting “lame” for a certain word that’s used to belittle gay people is notably hilarious.
There have been many recent movies that tried to pack action, romance, and humor into one package. Examples include “The Bounty Hunter,” “Killers,” and “This Means War,” three of the worst films of the past few years. There are admittedly some instances where “Hit & Run” can feel a little uneven as it juggles being dark while also having a heart. For the most part though, Sherpard does a solid job at balancing the tone, never making the audience feel like they’re watching two completely different movies. “Hit & Run” may have its fair share of bumps down the road. But for the pleasurable cast and quirky escapism it offers, the film is a ride well worth taking.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.