30 Minutes Or Less
Enjoyable enough in a naughty schoolboy fashion, but fairly unremarkable long term.


18 September 2011

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Plot summary

Nick is a small town pizza delivery guy whose mundane life collides with the big plans of two wanna-be criminal masterminds. The volatile duo kidnaps Nick and forces him to rob a bank. With mere hours to pull off the impossible task, Nick enlists the help of his ex-best friend, Chet. As the clock ticks, the two must deal with the police, hired assassins, flamethrowers, and their own tumultuous relationship.

After Zombieland, director Ruben Fleischer was always going to have big boots to fill with his next film. He remains very much in the same comedy adventure genre, only taps into the Apatow school of idiocy with puerile, often chauvinistic man-child humour. The redeemable feature, however, is Fleischer doesn’t dwell too long on the visual gags, and although not as sharply-written homage to past movie greats as in Zombieland, 30 Minutes Or Less flies along at its own screwball pace and sharp-fire tongue, once the bank job is in progress.

Pizza boy Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) finds himself delivering in the wrong place at the wrong time, and becomes the unwilling player in a dangerous assassination game thought up by spoilt brat Dwayne (Danny McBride) to rid him of his Forces-trained and overbearing father who’s worth a few million. Nick must rob a bank to get the cash to pay the assassin, or else risk being blown up by a bomb strapped to his chest if he doesn’t comply. With best mate Chet (Aziz Ansari), Nick only has hours to save his own skin.

Fleischer’s film takes its time to brew, and things only get interesting after the long, wordy and drawn-out male bonding sessions of best buddies Nick and Chet, and Dwayne and goofy Travis (Nick Swardson) that initially feel like you’re watching two different films stuck together actually end. In fact, rather than the script directing proceedings, it’s as if Fleischer has left the stage to Eisenberg and McBride to ad lib their way to the heist – but the former requires great dialogue to really shine in the straight act, while the latter is an acquired taste, and since Apatow’s mixed-bag Pineapple Express, McBride plays each idiotic brat role so under the comic radar that it’s hard to say whether he’s brilliantly ironic or just isn’t all that funny.

It’s Eisenberg and McBride’s co-partners in comedy crime, Ansari and Swardson, who actually steal the scenes in this, along with a brief couple of moments from Michael Peña as Chango the hit man. Once you get used to Ansari’s squeaky chipmunk vocals, his animated rants and dripping sarcasm are incredibly funny. Indeed Swardson sends up the film’s mockery of incompetence and immaturity to a treat, supplying the nods to show all are fully aware of the very dark humour flowing through of some of the sensitive subject matter, however disconcerting and un-politically incorrect it may be.

Once the action unfolds, the film snowballs at an enjoyable rate of catastrophe after farcical catastrophe, making the 80+ minutes fly by. The poignant lines from all – and Fleischer gives each character a glory moment to shine – are never overstated for effect or gag purposes, but register just enough when events get out of control to keep things interesting and witty, even though there may be a lot of expletives for some to stomach.

30 Minutes Or Less is less of a laugh-out-loud caper, but more an intriguingly quirky collision of bruised male egos that happens to be bolstered by some set-pieces and below-the-belt antics that some may or may not find funny – but it does try to be consistently amusing with some memorable one-liners. Fleischer’s film has a comic-book feel to some events too, which might appeal. Although the director gives nods to more classic films in this as he did in Zombieland, such as Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, the cleverer subtleties of 2009 film are missing, while relying purely on sick shenanigans that go to reduce all actors to the same level of maturity, without us necessarily getting the full effect of the bromances that Apatow films have become infamous for cultivating. 30 Minutes Or Less is enjoyable enough in a naughty schoolboy fashion, but fairly unremarkable long term.