If given the chance to co-direct, write and star in your own film, you would probably act out some sort of life fantasy, no matter how improbable it may seem to onlookers. In the case of Hit & Run, Dax Shepard plays an old-school wheelman, but sadly he is no Ryan Gosling. It is an unlikely role for someone like Shepard to pull off as he is lacks both the charisma and looks that one would associate with such a role, but he plays it with likable charm that allows the audience to believe him a stunt driver.
Shepard is Charlie Bronson, a man hiding out in Milton, California as part of his Witness Protection Program. When his girlfriend Annie (played by fiancée Kristen Bell) gets a promising job opportunity in Los Angeles he decides to risk his life in order to get her there. Along the way, US Marshall Randy (Tom Arnold) is in pursuit with intent on protecting Charlie, while Annie’s ex Gil (Michael Rosenbaum) and Charlie’s ex-best friend Alex (Bradley Cooper) are chasing with less honourable intentions.
Shepard and Bell have an easy chemistry which lifts each of their performances and it is their relationship that helps ground the film at times. The performances of Cooper and Rosenbaum are also enjoyable but Tom Arnold, portraying a lovable oaf, fails to match the rest of the cast as his presence comes off as irritating, although he does get the occasional laugh through some slapstick. The film seems to have a stronger affection for the character than he deserves.
While the performances as a whole are still strong, the writing and direction are less so. Hit & Run seems unsure about what tone it is going for; at times it seems to be purely a lighthearted comedy, but other times it verges on a full-scale road movie, complete with generic car chases that seem to view performing excessive doughnuts as essential criteria. Shepard also makes some strange choices in regard to the soundtrack which causes some disparity between certain scenes and songs.
That isn’t to say all of the choices Shepard (and co-director David Palmer) make are poor, as the chase sequences, if a little repetitive by the end, are well shot and edited. And there are laughs to be had in Hit & Run, with some well-written dialogue and slapstick throughout, although there are some risqué jokes that might offend some.
There are elements of a good film in here. If only Shepard knew what kind of film he wanted to make and focused on that. What we are left with is an enjoyable experience but one that only appears in short bursts.