It did not surprise me at all to hear Dax Shepard admit in a recent interview that he loved Smokey And The Bandit. While there have been plenty of bad imitations, including a couple of misguided sequels, no one has really captured that special something that made Smokey And The Bandit comic gold. Now that’s not to say that Hit And Run is a rip-off of Smokey And The Bandit. They are actually very different films. But there is an obvious homage element throughout that can’t be ignored. The truth is, if you liked one, you’re probably going to enjoy the other.
Charlie Bronson (Shepard) is living in a small rural town as part of the Witness Protection Program. He’s been living with girlfriend Annie (Bell) who knows he’s in the program but doesn’t really know any of the details. He’s “protected” by inept Marshall Randy (Arnold) who can’t seem to contain those “accidental” discharges of his weapon or runaway incidents, not by a fugitive, but his own mini-van. They appear to have a good life together with a future until Annie is offered the job of a lifetime. She’s offered a job to start the nation’s first conflict resolution graduate program. But the job is in L.A., which is where Charlie’s problems still live.
In L.A. Charlie was part of a bank job that went south, and someone got killed. He was just the getaway driver, and he ratted out the gang and got protection. The gang got out of prison on a technicality, and the place isn’t very safe for Charlie any more. The head of that gang is played by Bradley Cooper. He wants Charlie dead, and he’s a man who gets what he wants. To make the situation worse, Annie’s old boyfriend Gil (Rosenbaum) tips off the gang that Charlie’s coming back to L.A. The result is a road trip that includes Marshall Randy in his beat up mini-van, the bank thugs, Gil and Charlie taking Annie to her job interview.
If it all sounds complicated, it really isn’t at all. The four forces in the film will meet up in various combinations that provide a bit of Fast And The Furious car chases and stunts with a bit of comedy thrown in for good measure. Dax Shepherd has a reputation with fast cars, and he does all of the stunt driving here, which I’m sure complicated co-director’s David Palmer’s life, not to mention the film’s completion insurance bond company. There’s plenty of these kinds of stunts to keep the adrenaline junkies happy for the couple of hours.
The cast is really the best part of the film. Dax Shepherd and Kristen Bell are really a couple, so the chemistry between them is genuine. Bradley Cooper puts in the performance of his career as the thug with anger management issues and dreadlocks. There’s a scene in a grocery store where he has a problem with the cheap food a very large man feeds his dog. It takes you completely by surprise and sets the tone for the Cooper performance. Tom Arnold is pretty natural as a klutz. It’s good to see Michael Rosenbaum after all of those years as Lex on Smallville … and with hair. I honestly did not recognize him until he spoke. There are also some nice playful cameos that are fun to look out for.
That was the good news. Here’s the bad news. The film almost avoided being funny without having to be raunchy. That was until Charlie and Anne mistakenly walk into the wrong hotel room. I really could have done without the gross full frontal nudity there. As if once wasn’t bad enough they decided we simply had to visit the room again, this time with a camera angle that should come with vomit bags. Not sure what it added to the film. But I believe the easy answer is, wait for it….nothing.
Finally, the film falls apart too often when things slow down. The plot runs super thin. As much chemistry as Shepard and Bell have, I just don’t like her character. I can’t buy these two in this situation and in that relationship. It’s bad enough that the dialog she spits out drags everything else down. The script really reaches here as she nags him to be more politically correct. Honestly, she just whines too often. The actors deliver solid performances, but the film makes them feel quite staged. The result is an actor’s workshop that has some funny moments but doesn’t hold together well as a whole. What you get is a collection of quick funny moments. Isn’t that what trailers are for?
It’s a rainy day rental when it hits the video market. It’s obvious that everyone was having a lot of fun making the film, but was anyone really in charge? Someone has to drive even the party bus. Better at home. “If you mix it with a little wine or beer it enhances it.”