[Review] - Hit and Run

Courtesy of Open Road Films
It's a brilliant plan: say you're an actor, tired of getting cast in nothing but terrible romantic or buddy comedies, and you want to be in something with a touch of substance, but also is a lot of fun. If you've got the resources, and you've got enough friends, why not just make the movie yourself?

Such was the path that real life couple Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell took to bring Hit and Run (originally titled the much more relevant Outrun) to the screen. It's marketed as a romantic comedy, but much like the title change, it just goes to show that marketing is very rarely right about how they describe something unconventional. I would describe it as a crime-character study, or a road-caper, but neither of those really works either. The only thing that describes it well is to say that it is very Elmore Leonard-esque, so much so that I assumed it was an adaption until the credits rolled.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that have been hiding for years under an assumed name.

This movie will be the victim of terrible marketing. Indeed, the only reason I went to see it was because of Bell, whom I have always insisted would make a good movie eventually. The trailers play it up as a comedy crime hijinks sort of film, with Bradley Cooper complaining about prison rape. Not only is that scene not intended to be a Hangover-style comedy bit, and is in fact a poignant moment of discovery with a heap of awkwardness thrown in, but the rest of the film never sits long in the conventions of a standard comedy. Yes, it is funny. Sometimes, it tries far too hard to find the joke, and sometimes they go no where. Such is the case with Kristin Chenoweth's foul mouthed dean. The rest of the time, it's a personal story of two lovers coming to grips with the fluid reality of their relationship. It's a series of conversations, played against a passive plot.

And there are car chases. Lots of car chases.

Clearly, Shepard is a fan of movies from the seventies. The movie doesn't go so far in writing it's love letter to movies of that era as say, Tarentino might, but it hits all the high points. Simple plot, long conversations between characters, simple chase sequences that go on for some time, and highlight the beauty of the muscle cars being used. It is never extravagant, the camera is never anything but still. Shots are long and deliberate. It is patiently edited. It even homages actors of the era in characters names. And it works. Movies today never seem to slow down. If they are action oriented, they move at full pace. If they are dramas, they never seem to pick up. Hit and Run found that happy medium that dissolved sometime around the release of Star Wars.

Bell's character has a doctorate in nonviolent conflict resolution, which is all you need to know about the rest of the film. It is the nonviolent conflict resolution of heist films. Shepard's character skips out on witness protection so he can get his girlfriend to a job interview, all the while being pursued by her obsessed ex-boy friend, his former bank robber partners, his US Marshal handler, and some local cops. And in all that, there is very little violence. A nose gets broken, and some guns are fired near the end, but the rest of the film is the characters attempting to get out of situations as quickly and safely as possible. And this results in a lot of the action taking the form of dialogue.
It is such a departure from the standards of today, I had to be impressed. But more then that, the film is actually good. Bell and Shepard, as you might expect from a real life couple, have fantastic chemistry. The opening sequence, which sets the mood for everything that follows, almost seems voyeuristic, that we're being shown a private moment between them, and that they didn't know cameras were rolling. There is more connection between them in that five minutes then there was between every romcom couple over the past year.

The rest of the cast do what they have to, but besides Michael Rosenbaum's obsessive Gil, and Bradley Cooper's constant implied presence as the villain, the rest of the characters are just set dressing, getting the two mains in place to have another chat. Most of the roles are little more then cameos, filled by friends of the family, but never attempt to draw attention to themselves, as is so often the case with cameos. These aren't actors trying to wink at the camera, these are people who just want to see a movie get made. These are A-list extras.

I was never once bored, or never once distracted. It is a rare thing: a genuine movie. It wasn't made to satisfy a box office, or to extend character rights, or to bait the awards season, or to be quirky for teh sake of quirky. It was made because some people wanted to make a film, and didn't really care about what came after. I appreciate this film for what it is, and I liked it for what they did. And in a summer of unrelenting disappointment, I was happy to walk out of a theatre having enjoyed myself again.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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