"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Hit & Run

tn_hitandrunHere’s how I know marketing failed HIT & RUN: I was one of its test subjects. Some time last year I was at the multiplex picking up tickets for later in the day. In the lobby sometimes they have these survey people showing trailers on little monitors and asking focus group type questions. I always wondered what that was about, and I had some time to kill, so when they asked me to do it I said yes.

I saw other people being tested on THE EXPENDABLES 2, which at the time seemed exciting. But too my disappointment the survey focused on HIT & RUN, which I learned was a comedy starring Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Tom Arnold and Bradley Cooper as the bad guy. They showed me variations of different commercials, mainly consisting of Arnold yelling, Shepard getting hit in the face with a golf club, a car going off a jump, and the various actors in cars looking scared like they’re gonna crash. Some had a heavy emphasis on a scene where squeaky-voiced Kristen Chenoweth talks about taking Xanex. I struggled to answer questions like “What do you think the movie is about?” and “What is your favorite part?” (Answers: 1. “Well, they said he was a bank robber, so they’re after him? I don’t know.” 2. “I guess Bradley Cooper in dreadlocks looks funny.”) In the end I had to answer that no, I did not think there was any chance that I would see this movie, because it doesn’t look funny at all.

Fast forward to when the movie actually came out, and I heard Shepard on The Treatment with Elvis Mitchell. That’s when I learned he wrote and co-directed (with David Palmer) the movie, that it’s about his relationship with his real life lady friend Bell, that it’s a car movie featuring his own car, that it’s influenced by the unholy combination of Quentin Tarantino and Burt Reynolds movies. Even Tom Arnold being in the movie sounded more appealing after Shepard talked about Arnold being his sponsor and saving his life, and that’s why it was important to him to have him in the movie. Suddenly I pictured an entirely different movie than they’d even hinted at in the several different attempts at commercials they’d shown me. And then somebody told me it was pretty good, so I put it on my mental list of things to see. I wonder if I should get in contact with those survey people and change my answer?

mp_hitandrunThe key to the movie is the sweet and authentic chemistry between Shepard and Bell. Some real life couples are just gross on screen, but these two are actually more appealing together than apart. At first they seem mismatched as Charlie Bronson (long story), the lanky, not-so-outwardly-intelligent-seeming slob with Annie Bean, the little self-assured blond, but you quickly see how they calm and support each other. Annie is a highly skilled conflict resolution expert stuck working at a high school when suddenly she gets a dream job opportunity in L.A. Charlie agrees to move with her, which is a big gesture on his part because he’s in witness protection and the people who want to kill him are there. His backstory – most of it unknown to her – is rolled out a piece at a time as they hit the road and face various obstacles (ex-boyfriend, thief, criminals, overprotective federal marshal, dark secrets) and there’s alot of good conversation where both of them get to be funny, both get to be right and wrong, a good balance. Gender and character equality.

It’s also Shepard’s love letter to cars, so he drives his own souped up Lincoln Continental and talks adoringly about its various features, up to and including trunk size. There are multiple car chases and a big scene with a high speed dune buggy thing that also belongs to Shepard in real life (in the movie it belongs to his dad, played by Beau Bridges). The chases are shot in a very basic, non-confusing way, but also aren’t all that exciting. It’s alot of doing donuts. One big chase involves three cars circling around a giant airstrip. There’s more danger of rolling than crashing into anything. But there’s a certain charm to it, they obviously love shooting real cars, doing their own stunt driving and dreaming about SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT.

Academy Award nominee (!) Cooper is good. He’s introduced attacking a stranger outside of a grocery store over a disagreement about pet care. It’s kind of an Elmore Leonard moment because it establishes him as a total psycho and a genuine threat to our heroes, but also makes me kinda like him. Later he addresses being snitched on more as a you-hurt-my-feelings situation than an I-will-avenge-you.

It’s also got a pretty good soundtrack with some funk mixed in. I was really surprised to hear a favorite obscurity of mine, “The Funky 16 Corners” by the Highlighters Band. I’ve always been a sucker for James Brown counting off hits from his band, saying “one time” and they go “BOMP” and “two times” and they got “BOMP BOMP.” Well, this song is great because it works its way up to sixteen times. I just wish I knew what this 16 corners dance was they were talking about so I could participate.

When a filmatist mentions being influenced by Tarantino the buzzers start going off for me. It seems like more often than not the people who look to Tarantino have a really superficial understanding of what makes his movies tick, and then you end up with some dorks pointing guns and talking tough, way more convinced of their awesomeness than we are. That’s not what HIT & RUN is at all. Nobody even thinks they’re a master criminal, they’re all pretty awkward and inept, nobody’s supposed to be Steve McQueen. The way it does remind me of Tarantino a little is in the natural but inevitable way the story rolls out, seeming to flow organically from the personalities of the characters instead of trying to fit into a normal movie template. (Of course it’s also kind of a road movie, so it’s gonna be pretty episodic anyway.)

There are alot of little surprises and laughs that come entirely from character. Like, Charlie gets full of himself and his muscle car, tells off a guy who asks him about NOS by saying “Nitrous oxide is for fags” and roaring off like a badass. The movie lets you sit on that for a second, thinking “Huh, pretty funny, it’s kinda weird that he didn’t say ‘pussies’ or something though” as it moves on to the next scene. Only then does Annie bring it up and argue with him about it. It’s a unique movie relationship because usually it would be Ha ha, he’s not politically correct, it’s funny ’cause he says what he wants and she gets all uptight. But Charlie is not a lovable asshole, he’s a nice guy, so he knows she’s right. She convinces him, and he tries to be better.

When he comes face-to-face with his former partner that he ratted out he gets really apologetic, but does a poor job of trying to smooth things over. Let’s just say that his weirdly racist attempt to put an “it could’ve been worse” spin on prison rape does not go over well.

Arnold gets the broad jokes that were in those commercials, alot of yelling and crashing. But I got a good laugh at the part where he’s flipping out on Charlie, sweet-voiced Annie asks if he’s okay and he instantly turns calm because of her conflict resolution skills.

It’s a modest, likable little movie, fun and good natured (but with some blood), and it deserves to be watched. I’m sorry I couldn’t help, marketing department.

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 18th, 2013 at 12:31 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Hit & Run”

  1. marketing departments are always full of idiots

  2. I liked this film alot more than most movies I watched last year.

    One part that I originally thought was going to be annoying but turned out fun was the whole “Pounce” app. (I think that was what it was called)

    This was a huge step up from Brother’s Justice which has a lot of the same people and was Dax and David co-directing for the first time. With the same level of growth, a third film by the two of them could be great.

  3. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Part of it is because I’d watch Kristen Bell reenact Sections A – G of the Muncie Indiana Municipal Code, but mostly because it’s such a ramshackle little heart-on-its-sleeve project. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie that isn’t bending over backwards trying to blow my balls off with how epic and amazing it is. This one’s just content to be pretty decent. What Tarantino would call a hangout movie.

    I gotta give this Dax guy credit. Somehow he gets to be like “Check out my hot-ass girlfriend and my badass car collection and also let’s pretend my name is Charlie Bronson” and it’s endearing, it doesn’t make you want to punch him in the face at all. Most comedians seem like they’re gonna burst into tears every second if you don’t laugh at everything they have to say, but this dude seems like he has some real sand. I’d only ever seen him in IDIOCRACY where I was convinced he was Dane Cook for several years but I’m on his side now. If he wants to make more Burt Reynolds movies in his backyard with his friends, I will totally see them.

    I do think the secret ingredient is his relationship with Bell. Romantic comedy filmmakers need to look at that opening scene of them in bed together laughing and slapping each other in the face so they can see what chemistry actually looks like. I hate pretty much all couples but goddammit they are adorable together. It’s the most believable and well-rounded onscreen relationship I’ve seen in ages. They make most other movie couples look like strangers on a blind date that’s not going very well.

    Yeah, I kinda love this silly little movie. My favorite part is when they use Lou Rawls’ cover of “Pure Imagination” from CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY for one of the car chases. It really sells that this guy is magical behind the wheel, even if the actual stunts they could afford to pull off weren’t all that impressive.

  4. Knox Harrington

    July 18th, 2013 at 9:52 am

    I was a tad disappointed with this movie’s all-over-the-place tone. It would get a little uneven in places, being at times too wacky or too saccharine for my taste. That first scene with Bradley Cooper and the dog owner was such a good intro to what I thought would be a fun character, but there wasn’t much more to him after that. I dunno, the movie just really feels incomplete and underdeveloped to me. Kinda like they wrote a good first draft and then just left it there.

    Still, I liked Shepard and Bell’s characters, I liked the premise and the cool cars (even though the chases were kinda dull), and it had some clever moments. Writing these easy-going-yet-still-engaging, actiony, crime world hang-out movies aren’t easy, man. They gave it a decent shot, though. I wouldn’t mind watching their next one.

  5. The problem is… I hate Dax Shepard. I really do. I don’t know why. He’s never done anything to me personally and I’ve barely seen him in movies… But I just fucking hate the guy. Sorry, Dax.

  6. I really liked this one as well. I remember I was having a rough go of it that and my friend took me to the movies to cheer me up and it totally worked. It was a cute, fun movie that made me feel good and moments like that are why I love the movies. I will forgive a lot of a movie if the actors have good chemistry, especially if they’re supposed to be romantically involved and I thought Shepard and Bell had great chemistry. And the movie didn’t really have much to “forgive” to start with. I also thought Tom Arnold was fun in his usual stressed out, loud mouthed role. I’m not sure if Cooper was miscast or if I just couldn’t look past his usual pretty boy look to see him in this role, but he didn’t quite work for me. He wasn’t bad, and in fact did some good work, but I just thought something was off about him.

    It’s funny that Shepard talks about the movie being influenced by Burt Reynolds, because I first noticed him in WITHOUT A PADDLE, which co-starred Reynolds. I can’t help but wonder how excited Shepard must have been to work with Reynolds and what they talked about between takes, because it was clear in this movie how much he loved those old car movies.

  7. I didn’t mind this one as much. Sure, it was obvious and hakey, but I had a bit of fun. Especially with Dax Shepard, who isn’t the unwelcome presence I once thought of him as being. Nice review.

  8. The preview for this movie made it look like a snarky, unselfconsciously crass movie that, worst of all, wasn’t funny. Glad to see that Dax Shepard’s pet project wasn’t as terrible as the trailers made it out to be. I don’t care for Shepard one way or the other, but I hate to see people put their heart and soul into something only to see it fail (with the exception of Uwe Boll, of course).

  9. 1) Roger Ebert gave this movie 3 1/2 stars. 2) It’s available on Netflix Instant so if you have it there’s no reason not to watch it.

    I’ll reiterate my comments from the Netflix thread in the forum when I say I thought this had some of the best dialogue I’ve seen in years. It’s funny and snappy without trying to be like Tarantino or Shane Black, but also naturalistic without being mumblecore. It’s a tricky balancing act to pull off, but they do it, no doubt from the script but also from the great chemistry Bell and Shepard have.

    But I gotta agree with Knox – it’s too bad the movie peters out towards the end – the climax seems like they ran out of money and the Joy Bryant character seems to disappear – I don’t remember her doing or saying anything at all in her last few scenes. But it’s still a fun watch and if these guys make another movie I can’t wait to see it.

  10. I like the fact that Mr. Majestyk correctly used the word “sand” here.

    The previews for HIT & RUN were some of the worst, most poisonously obnoxious previews in the history of film previews (marketing fail, indeed), but now I’m gathering that the filmatists responsible for this movie are not hopeless chizzlers, so I guess I’ll give this a chance.

  11. Pretty interesting how this sprung from “Brother’s Justice.” I assume Vern’s hasn’t seen it? For anyone who hasn’t, it’s a mockumentary where Shepherd is trying to reinvent himself as a martial arts star instead of a comedian, despite no training whatsoever, in order to make an action film called Brother’s Justice. It’s massively unconvincing (he gets James Cameron on the phone, and interested, which… yeah), and not very funny (though I really don’t like Shepherd), but I suppose there’s something admirable that he eventually went and made his own action film. Not my favorite film, but it’s hard to not respect the moxie.

  12. If Cameron will fake-direct AQUAMAN, Cameron will fake-direct anything.

  13. Gabe – I just caught Brother’s Justice via Netflix Instant and actually kind of liked it. The first 1/3 or so is kind of a slog to get through, but there’s definitely some laughs to be had, if you’re into that Ricky Gervais/Larry David-style “awkward humor” with celebrities playing asshole versions of themselves. It’s kind of a tired genre but Shepard takes it just over the top enough. (And to think I thought it was an actual action movie all these years just by looking at the cover)

    Plus pretty much the entire cast of Hit & Run minus Bell shows up at some point – Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum, and Ryan Hansen are all there, and Bradley Cooper’s first scene with Shepard is kind of incredible. It’s a good double feature with Hit & Run and I hope these guys keep on making movies together.

    Also, it’s way better than I’m Still Here, which is pretty much the exact same movie but somehow incredibly boring. I think Affleck/Phoenix’s big mistake was trying to fool people into it being “real” – not many people believed Phoenix’s breakdown and if they did it was dispelled as a hoax by the time they saw the movie. And nothing too crazy happens in it (besides the inafmous shit scene) because they were still trying to put up the illusion of reality. Brother’s Justice doesn’t even try to fool you into “this is how Dax Shepard really is!” and it’s all the better for it.

  14. Wow, for a while here Vern I thought you were pulling our legs. I thought this was pretty bad–poorly paced, unfunny, and boring–but maybe I should give it another shot?

    I mean, I saw this on its first run which was only a year ago, but I have basically no memory of it. I think someone has a little dog, and there are ATVs at the end, but Shepard’s character barely registers. What else, gay cops and Tom Arnold’s a sloppy marshall, right?

    I thought Ebert’s rating was crazy and I think yours is too… which means I’m probably way wrong. Did anyone else here not like this?

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