Sunday, September 2, 2012

Film Review: Hit & Run

When an actor (Dax Shepard) decides to write and co-direct a film, and casts himself, his fiancee (Kristen Bell) and their closest friends (Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold), it could go one of two ways.  The first, and probably the more likely, is that it ends up being a clusterfuck of a movie that was probably a lot more fun to make than it is to watch.  The second, and probably the trickier of the two outcomes, is to create a solid work that is as much fun to watch as it probably was to make.  Lucky for us, and for Shepard, Bell and the gang, Hit & Run ends up definitely being the latter of these two possibilities.

Granted, it is a rather generic story - man on run from violent past who unwittingly drags his girl into the fray and must prove himself to her and others - and it does have one of the most run of the mill titles out there, but Shepard and Bell and Cooper and even Arnold - sometimes especially Arnold - make the film work on levels it really should have no right working on.  It is an old school action-comedy, that has a look and a feel that makes it act as if it verily sprung forth from the thigh of the Zeus of its genre-specific cinematic past.  No silly souped-up hi-jinx that are usually found in the breed lo these past two decades or so (think of the offal that is spewed forth in such ugly fare as the Bad Boys or Rush Hour films).  With Hit & Run we get just the good old fashioned hi-jinx of films like 48 Hours or the Lethal Weapon films (at least the first two), or maybe even the kind of decades-gone charm seen in films like Thunderbolt and Lightfoot and/or Freebie and the Bean.  What we get is fun.  Pure and simple fun.

Shepard, playing an ex-criminal hiding away in the witness protection program - under the self-chosen name of Charlie Bronson by the way - and Bell, the ooh la la dream girl of the nerd world, as his much smarter girlfriend (the real life couple are engaged and will finally tie the knot once gay marriage is made legal), not surprisingly considering, work perfectly together in that what-is-she-doing-with-that-guy kind of way.  The banter they play at seems real - which of course I am sure much of it is - and never seems like just movie dialogue, which granted works both for and against itself.  Bradley Cooper, as the dreadlocked thug out to kill Shepard's Charlie Bronson, is also quite good.  A scene involving his character beating and humiliating a dog owner for feeding his pit bull cheap dog food, is especially hilarious.  But actually the best thing about the film may be Tom Arnold.  Yeah, you read that correctly.  Arnold, as a more-than-frazzled US marshal, is a comic highlight indeed.  In sum, what I am trying to say is - this is a fun film that, if not a great cinematic work, should not be ignored.  And you get to watch Kristen Bell too.

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