"Hit and Runway" is the kind of shoestring budget, mock-autobiographical, tongue-in-cheek film festival trinket that has an endearing charm despite the fact that it just screams "my first feature."
Written and directed by unpolished rookie Christopher Livingson, the story is about Alex (Michael Parducci), a hopelessly inept struggling screenwriter whose only ambition is to get rich banging out simplistic action movies in which the hero sleeps with supermodels and belts out zingers like "Freeze you scuzbucket piece of Eurotrash!"
He lives in the basement of his family's Greenwich Village cafe, busses tables part time and dreams of signing a ruggedly wooden action megastar named Jagger Evans (Hoyt Richards) to one of his creations.
But Alex has a distant cousin in showbiz -- a cousin he's been pestering for months and who has finally (probably just to shut him up) hooked him up with a chance to pitch a story to a big movie producer. Now Alex is screwed. He's never even completed a real script. He needs help.
Then he remembers Elliot (Peter Jacobson) that nervously uptight, gay Jewish playwright who brought a script into the cafe hoping to impress a cute waiter. Alex shows up on his doorstep begging for help, and when he tells Elliot he can hook him up with the waiter, an odd couple collaboration begins.
The film borrows its title from the movie that they begin writing together -- a testosterone shoot-'em-up about a spy undercover as a male model -- which becomes the source of a comedic struggle. Likable dimwit Alex's ideas are all unoriginal, sex- and explosion-fueled crapola. ("What I see is there's some kind of smuggling going on down at the modeling agency," he suggests before adding that breast implants would be ideal for concealing cocaine.)
High-minded Elliot figures if he has to work on something as lowly as an action movie, he can at least improve upon the genre. His insistence that the love interest be a mousy, bookish girl with glasses (not unlike himself, save the gender) doesn't sit too well with Alex. That is, until he unexpectedly develops a crush on a rather plain girl in his screenwriting class (Judy Prescott).
Writer-director Livingston is clearly feeling his way through every aspect of this movie. He seems to fall back on montage sequences whenever the plot reaches an intersection. Some of the obstacles his characters face are highly contrived and/or outdated (our heroes lose half their script when the diskette holding the only copy gets run over). And much of the time the acting is meager. Jacobson, the most experienced actor, is convincing and sympathetic as a kind of limp-wristed Woody Allen, but Parducci (cartoony Italian) and Prescott (nondescript even after Alex stops looking right through her) both seem unsure of themselves, as if aware they're being watched.
The picture really shows its low-budget seams when it comes to the mock action movie sequences that play out in Alex's imagination. "Hit and Runway" just doesn't have the scratch to make them look even a little bit slick.
But the amusing creative conflicts between Parducci and Jacobson are enough to carry most of the movie -- that is until the gimmicky, obnoxiously sappy last reel in which Alex has a crisis of conscience while pitching the movie in person to Hollywood suits and the action star.
"Hit and Runway" isn't a $9 flick by any stretch, but if the characters or subject matter strike your fancy, it should be entertaining enough as a bargain matinee.