‘Hit and Run’ is quick, dirty and cheap

IN HOLLYWOOD, summer has come to mean momentousness, a space where you can't play unless you've got a gargantuan budget and a 2.5-hour running time.

There's another kind of summer movie, nearly extinct, that's made of less exalted stuff - gunfights, car chases, maybe a dune buggy - and delivered in roughly 90 minutes or less.

Example: "Hit and Run," a road movie made on the cheap by Dax Shepard, who saves coin by directing, co-writing the script and casting fiancée Kristen Bell as his co-star.

They play boyfriend and girlfriend driving from nowhere to Los Angeles, where she's scheduled for a career-making job interview and he's exposing himself to dangers that have confined him to witness protection in aforementioned nowhere.

He's a reformed motor head, and they cruise via back roads to Los Angeles in his souped-up 700-horsepower Lincoln, chased by her weenie ex-boyfriend, a crash-prone federal marshal (Tom Arnold), a couple of highway patrol officers (a very modern take on the "Smokey and the Bandit" archetype) and ultimately some revenge-minded criminals (Bradley Cooper, Joy Bryant).

"Hit and Run" is a B-movie throwback, meant to be seen at a drive-in, where you can make out during the dull parts or honk your horn as Arnold runs his poor minivan into a tree for the fifth time.

The movie is often raunchy and earns its "R" rating. There are ad-libbed riffs on such subjects as prison rape that probably should have been blue-penciled.

And it serves as a referendum on Shepard, whose extremely laid-back persona works best in small doses, as on TV's "Parenthood."

A little trimming, and you're closer to the magic 90-minute mark and the brevity and simplicity implied in the title, which sounds like a '70s road movie and has some of the same spirit, even some of the same cars.

Contact movie critic Gary Thompson at 215-854-5992 or thompsg@phillynews.com. Read his blog at philly.com/KeepItReel.

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