Combustible Celluloid
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With: Michael Parducci, Peter Jacobson, Judy Prescott, Kerr Smith, Hoyt Richards, John Fiore, J.K. Simmons, Teresa DePriest, Jonathan Hogan, Bill Cohen, Rosemary De Angelis, Marisa Redanty, John DiResta, Marian Quinn, Stephen Singer
Written by: Christopher Livingston, Jaffe Cohen
Directed by: Christopher Livingston
MPAA Rating: R for language, sexual content and some violent images
Running Time: 108
Date: 04/17/1999

Hit and Runway (2001)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Out of Fashion

by Jeffrey M. Anderson

We weren't very far into the history of film before filmmakers began to turn the camera on themselves, telling stories of directors, screenwriters, and actors. Some of those films, like Sullivan's Travels (1941) and Sunset Boulevard (1950) are quite good. But in this age of irony and self-referential works, the theme has been popping up more often than I'm comfortable with. Hit and Runway is the latest of these.

To make matters worse, Hit and Runway is also a writing and directing debut, by Christopher Livingston, which leads us to believe that this will be a film with celluloid for blood instead of achieving a life-force of its own.

Fortunately, I was only partially wrong. Though it's a low-tier effort, Hit and Runway still provides a fairly satisfying experience.

Alex (Michael Parducci) works at his family's cafe and dreams of breaking into the movies using a family connection. He comes up with what he thinks is a killer title for a movie, Hit and Runway, about a cop who goes undercover as a fashion model. The story is meant for a Jean-Claude Van Damme-type actor named Jagger Evens (Hoyt Richards), and Livingston occasionally shows "scenes" from the future finished movie. Not only are the scenes ridiculously bad (they're meant to be), but they really give away Hit and Runway's low budget. They go outside the lines the film draws for itself.

In any case, Alex can't write much farther than his snappy title. Meanwhile, brilliant gay playwright Elliot (Peter Jacobson), who is in love with one of the workers at Alex's cafe, drops off a play that Alex finds and reads. So, the two become reluctant writing partners.

Livingston gets the idea to make Elliot into a living Woody Allen clone, complete with glasses, stammer, and sense of humor, while Alex is more like John Travolta's Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever, but without the bell-bottoms. It's a cute idea to throw these two together, but Livingston tries to go one farther with the gay/straight angle.

The characters' sexuality does not come up during their writing sessions, which are easily the most potent scenes. Unfortunately, Livingston sets them both up with cliched love interests. Alex's true love is a woman with glasses (Judy Prescott), just like the character he's writing. He complains how ludicrous it is for a woman to whip off her glasses and suddenly become a sex goddess, and then she does it. And Elliot falls for a hunky Italian man who "has a thing for Jewish men," especially that ucchhh sound they make when they talk.

These scenes can get pretty irritating, and even more so in the big tearjerker where Tony explains to his brother that he doesn't want to work at the family cafe after all. But the movie works overall thanks to Parducci's and Jacobson's performances, and the chemistry in their scenes together. Unfortunately, the whole thing smacks of "first feature," and it's hard to say whether or not we'll see any more of Livingston.

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