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Hold tight to your seats, 'Hit and Run' moves fast

12:55 AM, Aug. 24, 2012
Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard star in 'Hit and Run.'
Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard star in 'Hit and Run.' / Open Road Films
Joy Bryant, left, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Hansen star in 'Hit and Run.' / Open Road Films

‘Hit and Run’

★ ★ ½
(fair to good)
Rated: R for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content.

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Everything moves fast in “Hit and Run,” a clear labor of love for director, co-writer and star Dax Shepard.

That’s probably for the best, as it doesn’t give you much time to slow down and think about the story. No matter. Just slam the pedal to the floor, blast on past the weaknesses in the plot, and enjoy the ride.

Shepard plays Charlie Bronson, a nice fellow living in the sticks with his girlfriend, Annie (Kristen Bell, Shepard’s real-life girlfriend). She teaches at the local college, a good-enough job but one that doesn’t put her doctorate in nonviolent conflict resolution to work. Charlie is not currently burdened by employment.

Then, during Annie’s performance review, her boss, the foul-mouthed, Xanax-popping Debbie (Kristin Chenoweth), tells her a college in Los Angeles wants to interview her for a position custom-built for her academic specialty. It’s a great opportunity, with one problem: Charlie can’t go to L.A.

It turns out he testified in the case of a bank robbery that turned into a murder, and is in witness protection. This explains the visits by Randy (Tom Arnold), the dim-bulb U.S. Marshal assigned to his case.

After as brief an amount of soul-searching as possible to keep the story moving, Charlie makes his choice: He’ll drive Annie to L.A. after all, even if it means blowing his cover. And he’ll do so in the tricked-out 1967 Lincoln Continental he’s been hiding — one of a few secrets he’s been keeping from Annie.

Unfortunately, Annie needs her teaching certificate, which she left with Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), her unstable ex-boyfriend, who . Gil is convinced Charlie is a dangerous criminal, so he chases after them. What’s more, he not only learns Charlie’s real name, but lets the brains of the bank robbery, Alex Dimitri (Bradley Cooper) know where Charlie is and where he’s headed. By Facebook, no less.

And then the chase is on. — with Randy, who is, after all, charged with keeping Charlie safe, joining in, as well. At this point, the movie changes considerably, and the adjustment in tone is not especially subtle. A somewhat offbeat romance shifts gears — pun intended — and becomes something more menacing and violent. In that regard it’s somewhat reminiscent of “Something Wild,” though Jonathan Demme’s movie is much more accomplished.

But Demme was after something deeper, a study of repression and, eventually, overcoming it. Shepard is content to make “Hit and Run” more of an adrenaline rush. There are some nods to honesty and redemption, but the level of attention paid to them is considerably less than that paid to pure horsepower.

Shepard plays Charlie as a likeable goof, a man who made mistakes but is determined to move past them. He and Bell have a nice chemistry — perhaps not surprising — though one suspects her constant analyzing of every situation might get old. Cooper’s character isn’t fleshed out, but he is — chubby, and dreadlocked, as well. And Beau Bridges has a nice cameo as Charlie’s dad, an attempt to drive home the redemption message.

But really, that’s secondary. In “Hit and Run,” the emphasis is on moving fast. Most of us may not be able to outrun our problems, but in the case of Charlie Bronson, it’s not for a lack of trying.

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