30 Minutes or Less
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Screenplay by Michael Diliberti
Jesse Eisenberg as Nick
Danny McBride as Dwayne
Aziz Ansari as Chet
Nick Swardson as Travis
Dilshad Vadsaria as Kate
How long is 30 Minutes or Less? 83 minutes.
What is 30 Minutes or Less rated? R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence.
Heist comedy had such potential, falls woefully short.
Zombieland was one of the best horror comedies to come out in the last few years, and director Ruben Fleischer has followed it up with yet another flick that relies on pastiche and pop culture. Much like last year’s The Other Guys, this weekend’s release 30 Minutes or Less is part heist movie, part bromance, and part comedy. This formula ought to mean great things, especially with a cast that includes Zombieland and The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg, comedian Aziz Ansari, and Eastbound and Down’s Danny McBride. Unfortunately all the ingredients merely add up to a messy, overly profane jumble with occasional bright spots.
Nick (Eisenberg) is a pizza delivery driver in Grand Rapids, Michigan who smokes too much pot and drives like Vin Diesel in the Fast and the Furious movies. His best friend and roommate Chet (Ansari) is starting to get his life together as a substitute teacher. Meanwhile, on the other side of Grand Rapids, miserable and stupid Dwayne (McBride) plots with his sidekick Travis (Nick Swardson) to off Dwayne’s father The Major (Fred Ward). The Major berates his Metallica-t-shirt-clad, mullet-headed son regularly. The Major also won $10 million in the lottery, the remainder of which will be bequeathed to Dwayne upon the elder gentleman’s death. To make said patricide happen, Dwayne gets a stripper to hire her assassin boyfriend Chango (Michael Peña). Chango needs $100,000 for the job, so Dwayne and Travis come up with a harebrained scheme to strap a bomb to the pizza guy (Nick, of course) and force him to rob a bank. Nick enlists Chet to help, which of course Chet does without question, because really, what better way to improve your life than help your potentially explosive best friend commit a felony? Of course everything goes horribly awry, as it must in heist comedies.
What does the average citizen know about bank robbery? Well, he’s probably seen Point Break, so he knows to stay out of the vault and stick to the tellers. Likewise, your average Joe knows about as much about defusing a bomb as what he saw in The Hurt Locker (or didn’t, in Chet’s case, because he – like so many of us – lets his Netflix movies sit unwatched on the coffee table for months). Luckily, there’s always Wikipedia to help us out of these sticky situations. Screenwriter Michael Diliberti packed the script with pop culture references, which is wickedly smart. For a movie that’s so blatantly derivative, it helps to cite your sources and bring the audience to your level.
30 Minutes or Less is brimming with hilarious people, and Fleischer’s best move was certainly to let the comedians run with it – and the moments when McBride, Ansari, Peña, and Swardson improvise are the movie’s best. But the MPAA has this to say about the movie: “Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence.” This is not an understatement: unfortunately either Fleischer encouraged the actors to curse as frequently as possible in their improv or the script called for it. I’ll never advocate censorship, and audiences enjoy a good curse word or twenty when inserted properly; the problem here is that the comedy actually takes a backseat to all the cussing. The movie’s also chock full of inane, unnecessary violence and bare breasts that do little to help the plot along. A lot of people find nudity, violence, and profanity to be the height of comedy, and if that’s you, you’ll probably really enjoy 30 Minutes or Less. Hot Tub Time Machine didn’t suffer for its overuse of the F-word and randomly exposed bosoms, but in 30 Minutes or Less the formula doesn’t quite add up correctly.
The movie’s pacing is whip-quick and the stunt driving is great. The tangled scheming is witty, and the actors are occasionally laugh-out-loud funny. Unfortunately, “occasionally” isn’t good enough to make up for the unnecessary profanity. The film’s end is abrupt, bizarre, and unexpected. Our protagonists, who didn’t get much development to start with, whiz by in 83 minutes and drive off into the sunset (so to speak) with little resolution. Perhaps the DVD and Blu-Ray will offer alternate endings – the final minutes of the film could’ve gone down any number of ways, and this one isn’t particularly satisfying.
If 30 Minutes or Less weren’t so bogged down with gratuitous cursing, violence, and boobs, it might’ve had the potential to be an American version of the brilliant Edgar Wright buddy-cop spoof Hot Fuzz. As is, it’s bound to go down in the annals of “meh” comedies. Transgressive material is only great when it’s done correctly, and 30 Minutes or Less gets it wrong. Ansari, McBride, and Peña are hilarious, Eisenberg’s dry comedic timing works, and Fleischer has a proven track record. But aside from a few glints of brilliance, the movie falls short. You’d do better to check out some of the other offerings out now unless you want an hour and twenty minutes of totally brainless, occasionally offensive material. If that’s your bag, this will be the perfect movie for you.