From the outside looking in, “Hit & Run” has all the makings of an end-of-summer cinematic treat. There is lots of action, muscle cars, a plot loosely based on the real-life romance of likable stars Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell, plus Shepard served triple-duty as the film’s director and writer.
Despite all those trimmings, the critical masses haven’t shown the film a lot of love, as it currently sits at a pretty poor rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. Rev your engine as we race through the “Hit & Run” reviews!
Real-Life Love Story
“Yes, Hollywood people have different rules of privacy than we do, not to mention a far greater tolerance for watching themselves on film. But there still seems to be something daring or outright stupid about what went into ‘Hit & Run,’ which Dax Shepard not only wrote, co-directed and stars in, but stars in opposite his real-life fiancée Kristen Bell — as his fictional fiancée, no less. Though the majority of ‘Hit & Run’ is about a very goofy chase across Southern California, with drug dealers and jealous exes and a gay sheriff for some reason, the relationship between Shepard and Bell is the emotional focus, in a way that gives the audience an uncomfortably intimate look into their actual lives together. Granted, these two are actors, and the circumstances of Charlie and Annie, who meet after Charlie goes into the Witness Protection Program for ratting out his former criminal buddies, are nothing like Shepard’s and Bell’s in real life. But the first scene shows them giggling and snuggling in bed together, and everything from the way they argue to the general power dynamics feel oddly true, as if a carefully wrought relationship drama is bubbling up from inside this caper — or as if real life is stealing focus.” — Katey Rich, CinemaBlend.com
The Raunchy Comedy
“The script takes its central relationship seriously, which leads to an unusual number of soul-searching conversations and which mitigates, to some degree, the general wash of wisecracks regarding all sorts of rape. Shepard wants it both ways: His character is meant to be a sweet lunkhead who uses words such as ‘fag’ and insults Asians, but by movie’s end, he’s learned his lesson and is deserving of his woman. Like the ‘Hangover’ films, ‘Hit & Run’ trades in a very violent brand of comedy that sells. I don’t buy it; it’s not slapstick, it’s just viciousness. There’s a set piece in which Cooper’s character humiliates and wallops a menacing African-American stranger, and it threw me straight out of the movie.” — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
Dax Shepard, Director
“I learn that Dax Shepard is a car fan and used mostly his own cars in the movie, which is a brave gesture in the name of art, because the movie’s vehicles have alarming experiences. Shepard (TV’s ‘Parenthood’) wrote the movie, co-directed it, starred, did stunt driving and in general is responsible for it. He also recruited his real-life girlfriend, Kristen Bell, to share the lead. IMDb reports the movie took only 10 weeks from plot outline to the martini shot, and most of the actors deferred their salaries. I mention that only because few action comedies are made with this much organization and precision. The plot grows complex, characters shuttle in and out, and everyone seems to be having a good time. I got the sense that it was a happy shoot, as if they knew it was going well; most action movies have characters who seem to be exhausted or victims of tunnel vision.” — Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times
“When Shepard’s on … he’s really on. There’s hardly anything rote or predictable about ‘Hit & Run,’ other than its title. That’s true of Shepard’s screen presence too. He’s Owen Wilson with a Billy Bob Thornton streak. That doesn’t sound like such a good idea, like a sloe gin fizz chased with RC Cola. But it works. Shepard’s chemistry with Bell carries the picture. The rest of the cast does fine. Bradley Cooper, as one of the bank robbers Charlie’s trying to avoid, shows up in dreadlocks and amber-tinted aviators. You can sense what a good time he’s having. He’s like Colin Farrell in ‘Horrible Bosses’: big star as bad guy with very bad hair. Tom Arnold, as the world’s most inept US marshal, gets more than his share of laughs.” — Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe
The Final Word
“Though Shepard and Palmer clearly have a lot of fondness for old-style car stunts, only a few moments suggest they have the chops to match the films that inspired them. It’s fun, for a while, to watch the film contrive to get Bell and Shepard into different sorts of vehicles and race around different types of settings, but the actual payoff to those contrivances isn’t all that thrilling. And as the bad guy, Cooper doesn’t really inspire much of a sense of danger, in spite of the film’s best efforts to badass him up. But as the star and writer, Shepard comes off well, generating sparky chemistry with Bell and zigzagging the dialogue in unexpected directions, like an extended argument in which Bell counters every defense he offers for throwing around the word ‘fag.’ However, the long stretches between moments like that, when the action plods along as the film moves from point A to point Z, keep ‘Hit & Run’ from transcending agreeability and becoming memorable. There really ought to be a lot more movies like ‘Hit & Run,’ but only if they’re just a little bit better.” — Keith Phipps, The AV Club
Check out everything we’ve got on “Hit & Run.”