30 Minutes or Less (2011)

10 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I know a lot of critics reviewing the comedy “30 Minutes or Less” bring up the tragic incident that this film plays its premise off of. To get through it quick, this is a movie about a pizza delivery man with a bomb strapped to him by some guys who tell him to rob a bank or they’ll blow him up. This is a flashback to a 2003 incident where a pizza delivery man planned to rob a bank with what was supposed to be a fake bomb strapped to him, but his partners double-crossed him with a real bomb.

I must confess I didn’t know about that at the time I was watching “30 Minutes or Less,” and I enjoyed watching it with blissful ignorance. Knowing now, I guess I should hate it now, right? Well…I don’t.

No, I still find “30 Minutes or Less” to be a reasonably entertaining comedy that managed to take a grim situation and make it quite amusing. It doesn’t break new ground or fashion a distressing tale about greed, and a lot of the humor comes from politically incorrectness. But I laughed, I wasn’t ashamed by it (for the most part), and I liked the comic actors that are oddly game for this material. It’s not a breakthrough comedy hit, like “Zombieland,” directed by Ruben Fleischer, the same director of this film. It’s just a modestly funny film.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a loser. He’s a post-college age pizza delivery guy with no ambition in life. He’s labeled a pathetic “man-child,” even by his best (and only) friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) who works as a substitute teacher. Things aren’t much better between the two of them when Chet finds out that Nick has slept with his twin sister Kate (Dilshad Cadsaria) and still has feelings for her.

Meanwhile, two even bigger losers have come up with a scheme. This is Dwayne (Danny McBride), a hapless, witless, wisecracking jackass, and Travis (Nick Swardson), his equally-luckless buddy. Dwayne lives with his Ex-Marine father “Major” (Fred Ward), and makes 10 bucks just by cleaning his swimming pool. “Major” has won the lottery and Dwayne gets the idea of hiring a hitman to kill him so he can get that money. They need a hundred grand to pay off the hitman (Michael Pena). What to do? Travis creates a bomb vest and he and Dwayne decide to strap it to some unfortunate loser and force him to rob a bank or blow him up. They order a pizza, Nick is the delivery guy, and there you go.

Of course, they could have just constructed a realistic-looking fake bomb vest and robbed the bank themselves instead of hiring a hostage. But oh well.

Scared out of his wits, Nick turns to Chet for help and as the bomb timer is winding down, Nick and Chet pair up to pull off the robbery and save their own lives.

There’s something about the tone that is just right for the movie and makes it watchable. Ruben Fleischer is careful not to overdo the heavier material. The robbery scene is paced just perfectly, with the right dose of comedy. And even though there are routine car chases, they’re still lively enough and not supposed to be taken too seriously.

Jesse Eisenberg is a likable lead and Aziz Ansari is a game comedic foil. Together, these two are a good buddy-comedy duo with very amusing banter. Even though Eisenberg’s character makes so many stupid mistakes, running around with explosives strapped to his chest and even risking the life of his girlfriend (who, by the way, is only in the movie so she can be kidnapped in the climax), it’s hard not to like and root for him.

Danny McBride’s Dwayne is an effective villain for this material—idiotic, menacing, and charismatic. This is the McBride I was looking for and really missed in the dreadful “Your Highness.” Nick Swardson is usually next to Rob Schneider as a constantly failing comedic actor, but now he has found the right role as Dwayne’s sidekick—smart, but completely weak-minded compared to Dwayne’s strong will. He’s quite funny here.

Also having their moments in “30 Minutes or Less” are Fred Ward, outstanding as Dwayne’s ex-Marine father with that Fred Ward strict attitude (and a pen-gun, if you can believe it); Michael Pena as the not-entirely-macho hitman the guys hire; and Bianca Kajlich as a stripper named “Juicy,” who goes crazy when someone messes with her investment.

“30 Minutes or Less” recalls some effective moments in “Pineapple Express,” has some game comic actors who do what they can, and brings the laughs however it can. Even if some of the gags don’t work and its raunchy jokes are sophomoric to say the least. But it never runs out of steam and it’s over in just an hour and twenty minutes, excluding the end credits. Laughs overstay the film’s flaws.

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