Last year, I was in Grand Rapids at 4 AM, standing in the middle of a scrapyard watching Nick Swardson shoot a flamethrower. It was a my first official set visit as a movie journalist, and I was out of my mind with excitement. I got to watch 30 Minutes or Less film, meet the cast and director, all of whom were exceptionally nice, right down to Danny McBride who is far more southern gentlemen than douchenozzle as his characters would suggest
Unfortunately, I can’t let what was a memorable, enjoyable experience detract from my duty to be objective when it comes to reviewing the movie itself, which I now get to watch almost a year later, and see the 15 takes of each scene I witnessed reduced to one.
The fact is, 30 Minutes or Less isn’t a very good film. It’s not a very good comedy, or a very good action movie, and attempting to combine both doesn’t help either.
The plot is farfetched, and though we can forgive the concept, the execution is what is most bothersome as in the end it feels convoluted yet underwhelming and unfinished at the same time.
Perhaps not the best close quarters weapon choice.
Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza delivery boy with not much going for him other than the ability to drive like a maniac and still deliver his orders a few minutes late so they’re free. His life is shit, and get shittier when he has a falling out with his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) during a spat where the two reveal sordid secrets like how Nick slept with Chet’s twin sister (Dilshad Vadsaria) and Chet was ultimately responsible for Nick’s parents’ divorce, as his loose lips revealed his mother’s affair with a local lifeguard.
But things go from bad to much, much worse quickly as Nick stumbles into a trap set by amateur criminals Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson). They have an elaborate scheme to kidnap an unfortunate pizza boy, strap a bomb to his chest, and force him to rob a bank. In turn, they’re going to use that cash to hire an assassin (Michael Pena) to off Dwayne’s mean but loaded father, and use the subsequent inheritance to open a tanning salon that gives happy endings.
The movie moves at a million miles an hour, as you expect a film might when it stars a man with a bomb strapped to him, but so much so that it seems like it blows past some major plot points. The robbery itself is a relatively small scene, and far from the climax of the film, and the tangled web of who gets the money afterwards is far more twisted than it needs to be, and when things go awry it’s more perplexing than amusing.
Dog Day Afternoon this is not.
There are funny moments, most occurring between Eisenberg and Ansari’s duo as they realize that monumental task set before them. Swardson and McBride have a few good lines as well, but everyone here is playing the usual character we’ve seen from them many times before. Ansari and McBride for example are inherently funny as actors, and it’s clear they’ve improvised a lot of the material to better suit their styles. Eisenberg is a strange choice for a lead in a movie like this, just coming off an Oscar nomination for The Social Network, but he plays a man about to die with such intense fervor, it’s almost a performance for a different movie.
After the robbery, an admittedly hilarious scene, the comedy mostly evaporates, as does any semblance of plot structure right up until the absolutely absurd climax that gives nothing close to resembling a satisfying conclusion. When the credits roll, it’s unclear whether three of the major characters in the film are even still alive, and it’s just feels like they couldn’t come up with a cohesive ending so they just cut to black.
It was strange to see this from Ruben Fleischer, the director of Zombieland that had both a signature look and comedic tone, both of which are absent here. This is as forgettable as comedies get, and no amount of explosions, f-bombs or flamethrowing can change that.
1.5 out of 5 stars