Dax Shepard is a self-professed car enthusiast whose adoration for his 1967 Lincoln Continental runs deep. He’s also quite fond of the actress Kristen Bell, his fiancée since 2010. Hit & Run stars both of his loves, and why not? As the writer, director and lead actor in this action-comedy, Shepard is in the driver’s seat. The film looks and feels like a well-oiled machine when Shepard drifts through California streets and exchanges romantic pleasantries with Bell. But the film loses traction when Shepard is forced to go beyond autobiography.
Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a getaway driver forced to enter the Witness Protection Program after he testifies against his former bank heist accomplices. Life is idyllic for Charlie and his girlfriend Annie (Bell) until a trip to Los Angeles brings him face to face with his old gang.
The problem with Hit & Run is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. The drama undercuts the comedy and vice versa, leaving neither strong enough to carry the film. An emotional scene between Charlie and his former bank robbing partner, Alex Dimitri (a dreadlocked Bradley Cooper), is pre-maturely defused when Alex announces a certain sexual incident that occurred while he was in prison. Tom Arnold’s character is such a trigger-happy buffoon that his status and eventual success as a U.S. Marshall seems preposterous.
Fortunately, Hit & Run succeeds in offering exciting car chases that, at their best, approach Bullit-grade intensity. This achievement is heightened by the fact that Shepard does all his own stunts, lending the film’s action scenes an air of authenticity. But no matter how great Shepard’s driving skills are, he still needs a crash-course in storytelling.