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Arts & Entertainment

High-speed 'Hit and Run' blazes through plot barriers

| Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2012, 9:02 p.m.

‘Hit and Run'

R for pervasive language including sexual references, graphic nudity, some violence and drug content; ¬¬ 12 stars (out of four)

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 that 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 LA.

It turns out that he testified in the case of a bank robbery that turned into a murder, and is now in the witness-protection program. 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 at the home of Gil (Michael Rosenbaum), her unstable ex-boyfriend. Gil is convinced that Charlie is a dangerous criminal, so he chases after them. What's more, he lets the brains of the robbery, Alex Dimitri (Bradley Cooper) know where Charlie is headed. By Facebook, no less.

And then the chase is on — with Randy, who is, after all, charged with keeping Charlie safe, joining in. 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.

Shepard plays Charlie as a likable goof, a man who had made mistakes but is determined to move past them. He and Bell have a nice chemistry — perhaps not surprising — though one suspects that 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.

— The Arizona Republic

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