Like Stuart Gordon’s 2007 thriller STUCK, the latest film from PENNY DREADFUL scribes Diane Doniol-Valcroze and Arthur Flam is based on the 2001 case of Chante Mallard—who after a night of drinking hit a homeless man with her car then proceeded to drive home with the man trapped in the windshield. The victim later died in Mallard’s garage of the injuries and she was sentenced to 50-years in prison for his murder.
In HIT AND RUN, Mary (Laura Breckenridge) is out for a Spring Break evening with her gal pals, slamming shots at a local bar. On her ill-advised drive home, she swerves off of the road to avoid hitting a tire and careens her Jeep into the woods, narrowly missing a few trees. Shaken by the near collision, she arrives home only to discover the bloody body of a man (Kevin Corrigan) impaled on her front bumper. As she tries to help the man, he attacks her! Impulsively, she reacts by bludgeoning him to death with a golf club. Now, Mary has a dead body to deal with. In a fit of panic, she buries the corpse in a shallow grave and calls her boyfriend for help. When Mary returns to the woods to retrieve some evidence she left behind, she learns that the man wasn’t nearly as dead as he appeared to be…and now he wants revenge.
Since the Mallard case has inspired an episode of CSI, Law & Order, Gordon’s feature film and countless urban legend retellings, it’s pretty hard for HIT AND RUN to overcome the lack of originality wall that sits squarely in front of it. As it stands the film is simple, straightforward, not totally uninspired, but definitely saddled with a serious hurdle. Like PENNY DREADFUL, the production is not flashy and the performances are perfunctory. The plot moves along at a pretty solid pace, providing for a jolt or two of forward momentum about every 15-minutes. But, in the end, HIT AND RUN is just a minor speed bump in the cinema of morality.
Ultimately the insurmountable problem with the film is that, because of its familiarity, and the by-the-book plot structure the production is dull. Breckenridge does an adequate job portraying Mary as a genuinely likable girl (a big leap in the other direction from Mena Suvari’s character in STUCK or the real life individual at the heart of the case) but her situation is still so extreme that we can’t feel sorry for her. As a turning-the-tables villain, Corrigan isn’t terribly menacing (nor is he recognizable under the tons of blood and prosthetics). When he finally goes off the deep end, the film still never feels “life or death” enough to warrant our actual concern.
As a feature, HIT AND RUN is really not that bad. It’s just there passing time in our lives that could better be served watching something that matters. In reality, it never had much of a chance at wowing its viewing audience. It comes of too little; too late in telling a story that even STUCK proved was better served on Network Television.