Hit and Run
People who go to Comic Con in San Diego every year live for the next $200-300,000,000 blockbuster, the next John Carter, the next Batman, the new Zombie Apocalypse. They slaver over the trailers debuted there, and haunt the Internet for more previews. Summer movie people. Looking for the movies that the studios sometimes spend as much money—or more—on generating a buzz.
Or maybe you’re the sort who eagerly anticipates the Oscar season at the end of the year. You’ve heard a lot about Lincoln, about Zero Dark Thirty, about Les Miz.
I’m not knocking either sort, especially the latter. I like a good action picture as much as anyone … I emphasize good, as there is so much crap before you find the rare one with a brain.
As for myself, the sort of movies I live for are the ones shuttled off to the first part of the year, usually to die, or to the ones after the summer movies. Granted, a lot of them are trash. But this is where you will find, every once in a while, an unsung gem. A movie where some possibly marginal movie people—directors who have never directed before, stars without million-dollar price tags attached to their names—scrape up some money and hire a non-union crew and get together with some of their friends and make a labor of love.
This is that kind of movie. It was made for one million dollars (okay, two, with the song rights, which can be damn expensive) by a man named Dax Shepherd, who I’d hardly ever heard of. He wrote, produced, co-directed, and stars in it. It co-stars Bradley Cooper and two (count ‘em, 2!) Krist-ns for the price of one. There is Krist-E-n Bell, who is a sharp little actress, and there is Krist-I-n Chenoweth, my favorite soprano, and one hell of a comic actress herself. All four-foot-eleven of her.
In addition it has Tom Arnold as the most incompetent US Marshall ever to pin on a tin badge. The man can’t pick up a gun without having it accidentally go off.
From the poster you would think this is something like Fast and Furious, where hundreds of cars are wrecked and vehicles leap from building to building. It bears very little resemblance to that. Yes, it is deeply involved with cars—including a custom ’67 Lincoln with a 700hp engine—but it’s not insane. There is a good deal of fast driving and some trick driving, but that’s not really what it’s all about. Dax is a man who has been living in a little rat-hole of a town for four years, in the witness protection program. While there he has fallen in love with Kristen-with-an-E, who now has a chance at a great job. But it’s in Los Angeles, and he’s not supposed to go there because people may be looking for him. But love conquers all, and they set out. And then things get complicated.
That’s really all the plot you need if you have good actors and, most important of all, a good script, and this is a dynamite script. I was laughing out loud over and over from the insane conversations these people were having. There is one long bit concerning getting raped in prison that, swear to god, was one of the funniest I’ve come across in a long time. Yes! Getting raped in prison! Hilarious! And all the dialogue and performances and situations are just a sharp as can be.
And talk about a low budget. Shepherd is a car buff, and most of the cars were from his collection, including the 700hp Lincoln and an amazing dune buggy. The actors did their own stunt driving, and while it wasn’t up to some of the insane things the professionals do, I wouldn’t have wanted to do it. So, for the investment of two million, the flick brought back thirteen. Nothing, chump change to the Big Studios, but look at the profit margin. Over ten million to the producers. Which I fervently hope they will plow back into the making of another movie this sharp and witty.