Thursday, May 17, 2012

Car Chase

The most interesting thing about Hit And Run, Dax Shepard's new film set for release later this summer, is that it's the sixteenth film to share that title since 1924. Which is fine, since it's a great title - three words, three letters each, meant to be laid out in boldface all caps on a marquee. We've also made a film with this title practically every year of the past decade, which lets you know how much Hollywood has come to value original thinking lately.

The trailer shows Shepard, who plays a bank heist getaway driver in witness protection, driving a dune buggy and a Corvette C6, but car nerds have been geeking out over the '67 Lincoln Continental with the 514ci racing crate engine bulging so conspicuously under its hood. Which is nice and all, but it sounds like putting a jet turbine boat engine on a barge, and is probably about as tidy to handle.

The plot is easy enough to guess from the plot: Dax's old criminal buddies catch up to him and blow the cover on his new life, sending him and his new girlfriend on the run, where she discovers for the first time his wicked-awesome driving skills as they swap cars with Bradley Cooper and his blonde dreads in pursuit. They're caught, there's an exchange of repartee (ATTENTION: PRISON RAPE JOKES,) the money is exhumed, further complications ensue and Dax and girlfriend Kristen Bell either ride off into the sunset with the money while Tom Arnold shakes his head ruefully or some sort of semi-bummer "ironic" ending denies them of their ill-gotten gains in the interest of delivering a punchline that Shepard had always hung the script on.

Before that happens there will be car chases, a movie action component that has become ritual, and has been largely consigned to second unit professionals. We've come a long way since car chases in films like Bullitt and The French Connection made actors lunging about in front of rear-screen projection obsolete, but instead of driving constant innovation, most car chases have simply turned into a pointlessly adrenalized way of getting actors from point A to point B.

There are probably a few foreign films with car chases - the French seem to have a fondness for them - but the car chase is still quintessentially American, even if it has devolved into an excess of films where characters grind out acres of exposition while conversing in the confines of a moving auto. A car-less life has meant that the whole of my experience of driving really fast has come from the movies, so reviews of car movies will be a regular feature on this blog. I might even write about Hit And Run, though to be frank, it looks more like a rental.

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