With Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Michael Rosenbaum. Written by Dax Shepard. Directed by David Palmer, Dax Shepard. Rated R (for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content). 100 minutes.
Although there’s often a “sleeper” that emerges from the late summer releases, most of movies coming out in the last couple of weeks in August are placeholders on the schedule as the studios gear up for the fall releases. Suffice to say HIT & RUN is no sleeper – rather, it is one of the worst movies of the year.
Dax Shepard, a TV star with an unimpressive list of credits behind him, somehow managed to convince people that he could write, co-direct (with David Palmer) and star in a hilarious action comedy. He presumably neglected to tell them it would be a movie with few if any laughs and some truly dull stunt work passing for the “action.” He then convinced his real life fiancée, Kristen Bell, to co-star as his character’s fiancée, which only proved that they have no on-screen chemistry. This is a movie where you’ll be checking your watch over and over wondering how 100 minutes could go by so slowly.
Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, only that’s not his real name. See, he’s in the witness protection program because of an involvement with bank robber Alexis (Bradley Cooper, in dreadlocks) that only slowly emerges. Then his fiancée Annie (Bell) gets an opportunity to get a job in her academic field in Los Angeles. Although they are living in rural California because Charlie had to leave L.A., he agrees to drive her down there.
Alexis finds out about this through a series of events that involve a gay state trooper (Jess Rowland), the trooper’s idiot brother who happens to be Annie’s jealous ex-boyfriend (Michael Rosenbaum), and Facebook. Yes, it’s that stupid. However let it be said that the movie is timely. In a week where one of the top news stories is how a Republican Congressman believes women can’t get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” there are no less than three different rape jokes – er, alleged jokes – in the film. One involves child molestation, and another is no less than a lengthy dialogue about the nationality of the man who raped Alexis in jail. There’s also Kristin Chenoweth as a college official who abuses prescription drugs, which may give a hint not only how this awful script got written but how it ever got approved.
Soon there are several cars chasing each other through California’s back roads, including an endless sequence in an empty parking lot. Shepard also shows he can spin a muscle car in circles several times, although at the moment he’s doing it he ought to be trying to escape. It’s one of many contrivances and loose ends in the script, with characters transforming themselves from scene to scene. Thus Annie can be a brilliant sociologist specializing in conflict resolution or a whining, pouting ninny. Tom Arnold plays a moronic U.S. Marshal who fires his gun or lets it go off in ways that makes him a danger to himself and others except for the one moment when he is suddenly transformed into a sharpshooter.
David Koechner, Beau Bridges, and Jason Bateman also turn up in cameo roles but no one does themselves any credit here, and only a few emerge unscathed. At least “Hit & Run” is aptly named. By the time you realize you’ve been involved in a horrible mess, the perpetrators will have already sped off into the night.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.