30 Minutes or Less

6 Sep

Title: 30 Minutes or Less
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Ruben Fleischer
Writer: Michael Diliberti, based on a story by himself and Matthew Sullivan
Starring: 
Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Michael Peña, Fred Ward
MPAA Rating: 
R, crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence
Runtime: 
83 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
6.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 
42%

 

The level of expectation I had for 30 Minutes or Less was seriously amped up. Ruben Fleischer had made his feature-length debut with Zombieland two years ago, and I ranked that film as my 11th favorite of that particular year, it’s pretty much a masterful film that got splendid performances from Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Emma Stone, a favorite of mine. Now, Mr. Fleischer, instead of going off and doing a huge-budget studio film (he was offered the upcoming Mission: Impossible film) chose to remain in the comedy genre he loved so much (he’s done great stuff for Funny or Die) and garner some more experience before setting off to do a big film, which I thought was a smart move. Not to mention that he had retained his Zombieland lead, Mr. Eisenberg, and paired him up with the likes of Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride, arguable two of the funniest guys on television right now from their roles in Parks and Recreation and Eastbound & Down, respectively, so it all seemed to point at 30 Minutes or Less being a great success.

I was wrong, though, unfortunate as that may be. I mean, the film isn’t horrible at all, and the cast is indeed quite good, but Mr. Fleischer’s direction didn’t seem as involved as it was in Zombieland to me, and the result was a film with a rather messy narrative, not to mention that some of its crude R-rated gags sometimes felt like a bit too gratuitous for me and not really as smart as they evidently thought they would be at all. I just didn’t know what the film was trying to accomplish, I got the sense at times that it was trying to emulate films like Pineapple Express, one that I personally loved, and have that whole stoner/slacker comedy vibe, but in the end the script didn’t do enough to make it a decent stab at that genre, it helped that the cast was as talented as it was because it masked some of the obvious holes in the screenplay, but it wasn’t enough for this to be as great as I thought it was going to be.

You may recall the true event that inspired this film. In 2003 a pizza delivery guy concocted a scheme to rob a bank with a fake bomb strapped to his chest, except his partners double-crossed him and the thing was real. It’s really kind of crazy that a comedy of this kind was inspired by such a horrid real event, but here you have Mr. Eisenberg’s character, Nick, a loser twentysomething year-old who just delivers pizzas probably because anything else would require too much effort from him. His pizza company, as the title indicates, promises your pizza will arrive in 30 minutes or less, it also indicates that the guy’s a pretty solid driver, which ensures the pizza’s rapid arrival as well as some handy abilities when the inevitable car chase scene comes along. He’s the guy who’s kidnapped by a mischievous duo who strap a bomb to his chest and order him to rob a bank for them or else he’s dead.

Nick’s best friend and roommate is Chet, played by the awesome Mr. Ansari, who’s actually taken a step towards maturity and taken a job as a high school teacher, which means his relationship with Nick goes through a speed bump as he can’t indulge in many irresponsibilities any more, not to mention Nick slept with his twin sister, Kate. However, what better way to get friends together again than a bomb strapped to one of their chests? Because Nick obviously goes to Chet, who obviously rises to the occasion and does what he can to help save his friends life. And look, it may sound cool but the way it’s done is just too unimaginative, with only mild laughs available, and not that often to begin with, this is a film that you’ll forget soon after watching it, which is a pity considering it came from the same guy that masterfully executed such a high-concept and thoroughly entertaining film like Zombieland.

This a dumb film though, which is okay in so far as that the characters aren’t the brightest bulbs ever, either. I mean, the film’s two baddies, Dwayne played by Mr. McBride and Travis played Nick Swardson, are at a strip club one night when Dwayne tells a stripper his dad won the lottery, she then tells him that if he had that fortune she would be with him forever, she goes so far as to recommend a hitman to kill off his dad. So then one night the two decide to order a pizza, kidnap the delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest, make him rob a bank to get the money to pay off the hitman and then kill the dad and get his money. You see? It’s all pretty dumb. But, hey, at least the hitman is played by Michael Peña, who actually rocks the role and probably gives the best performance of the whole film.

There are a few good things, though, which is why I will give 30 Minutes or Less a grade that means I recommend it. I mean, there’s a big chase scene that’s just seriously well-done, and then there’s Mr. Eisenberg, who’s still very good here even though he isn’t given much to play with, there are still a couple of scenes which he embeds with some nice level of emotion that makes them work much better than they probably should have. As for Mr. Ansari, there are a couple of scenes in which he’s really good, but there are also many in which he fails, not because he doesn’t give it his all, but because the script just didn’t allow for much to be done with it. As for the two baddies, Mr. McBride actually sucks here, he might be one of the funniest guys in showbusiness, but his character was just horribly one-dimensional, Mr. Swardson comes off with the better end of that stick, as Travis is actually a decently-written character with which he does a few fun things that work nicely.

Like I said, I will actually go ahead and recommend this film, the tone and humor may be just too uneven for it to really shine, but there are a few good moments thanks to the very-talented cast assembled here, and even though he mostly takes an ineffective rather stale approach, Mr. Fleischer does craft a few scenes that show he wasn’t a one-hit wonder but that he really does have talent, it’s just that the script here failed him terribly. Thankfully, though, his next film, 2013’s The Gangster Squad, already seems like the greatest of ways to bounce back, as it sees him reunite with Zombieland‘s Ms. Stone and Mr. Peña from this film, and the rest of the castincludes Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Nick Nolte and Mireille Enos. So, yeah, this one may have been disappointing, but you can be sure I’ll be first in line for that one.

Grade: B-

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One Response to “30 Minutes or Less”

  1. CMrok93 September 9, 2011 at 2:08 am #

    This is no comedy classic, but it delivers plenty of laughs, thanks to a witty script and no less than five very hilarious performances. Good Review! Check out my site when you can!

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