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I am Salty The Beast. I am what you might call a Renaissance man, meaning I find interest in most every medium. I love watching movies, listening to music, writing music, playing video games, making videos, etc.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Hit & Run

“Hit & Run” casts real-life couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard as the romantic duo of Annie and Charlie. Both of them think they’ve hit a snag in their relationship when Annie, a qualified educator in the tragically barren job market of nonviolent conflict resolution, is met with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to teach at a university in Los Angeles. But no, that’s merely the first domino to topple over, which will inevitably cause a whole cluster of surrounding dominos to follow suit. Annie is soon finding out about her boyfriend’s not-so-admirable past, in which he played getaway driver to his two bank-robbing pals.

Though Charlie, whose full name is Charlie Bronson (named after the British criminal, not the “Death Wish” star), had shown nothing but love and support to his girlfriend beforehand, Annie is conflicted about whether or not she could still love him after this startling truth is revealed. In one of the more interesting scenes, Charlie wonders why she can’t just disregard the past and accept the fact that he’s a changed man, reformed from his criminal history. Good question. In the infinite gamut of emotional hang-ups, where does the line between forgivably mild transgressions (a former alcohol dependency) and complete deal-breaker territory (assisting in armed robbery) start?

But unfortunately, interesting moments like these are rare in the film. Instead, the big focus here is the wide, wide variety of souped-up vehicles on display, most prominently a black ’67 Lincoln Continental fixed up by Charlie and his old man back in the day. Yes, for the record, I had to look up what kind of car it was just now. In my review of “Moneyball,” I sheepishly confessed that I was exceedingly uneducated when it came to sports. Now I suppose it’s only fitting for me to declare my embarrassing lack of enthusiasm towards cars. Honestly, I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

However, “Moneyball” won me over with its superb script, sharp direction and shining performances by Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. In other words, it didn’t take a baseball fanatic to fully appreciate it. Similarly, I suspect motorheads won’t be the only audience members who enjoy “Hit & Run,” but outsiders will certainly have less reason to hold on.

Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell’s adorable dynamic translates to film quite nicely, but I feel too little time is spent developing their character’s relationship. The domino effect of revelatory information leading up to Charlie’s life of crime is triggered by Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), Annie’s overprotective ex-boyfriend who immediately senses something sketchy about her new squeeze. Gil’s brother, a gay police officer (Jess Rowland), is soon requested for backup, and Randy (Tom Arnold), a U.S. Marshal with a short fuse, risks his health and well-being (as well as his unassuming minivan) to protect his friend Charlie. The final piece of the puzzle is Alexander Dimitri (Bradley Cooper, sporting dreadlocks that my sister tried growing several years ago), one of Charlie’s old partners in crime who’s out of jail and seeking revenge for his betrayal to the team. Whatever you do, don’t stand behind this guy in the Petsmart when purchasing puppy chow.

With the exception of a few funny moments, including an exchange about casual derogatory slur usage and a discussion about an iPhone app that essentially amounts to a virtual gaydar, much of the dialogue passages don’t stick out. The screenplay makes a few attempts at being cutting edge in the way that Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue in “Pulp Fiction” was, but misses the whimsical precision that Tarantino perfected in that film.

Shepard’s name is scribbled so many times in the production credits that it resembles the Trapper Keeper of a schoolgirl who repeatedly doodles the name and initials of her crush on the inside. In addition to being the lead actor, he directed (along with “Brother’s Justice” collaborator David Palmer), he produced, he wrote the screenplay, he did the editing, and he brought a few hot rods from his personal collection. He even performed his own stunt driving, and these sequences are a refreshing change of pace from the implausible, CG-enhanced mayhem we’ve come to expect from the “Fast and the Furious” movies.

He was clearly passionate about making this project, and it’s difficult for me to criticize him for that. As somewhat of an aspiring filmmaker myself, I admire his confidence and drive in making his own personal tribute to films like “Smokey And The Bandit.”  I wish I could appreciate “Hit & Run” in the same capacity.

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