Review: 30 Minutes or Less

Posted August 13th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

30 Minutes or Less takes a more comedic approach to a scenario that tragically took place in 2003 when a pizza delivery man claimed he was abducted and forced to rob a bank while strapped with a bomb that exploded killing him. Though the producers claim there is no connection to that story it is tough to ignore the similarities. Surprisingly however the film doesn’t treat the situation itself as a laughing matter. While the character interactions are often funny the underlying severity of the plight is kept somewhat grounded. That helped make 30 Minutes or Less more than just a series of mildly amusing actions and jokes. 

Jesse Eisenberg plays Nick, a pizza delivery guy going nowhere in his life. By chance he ends up being forced by two men (Danny McBride, Nick Swardson) to come up with $100K. He’s stuck in a bomb vest with a timer ticking down and the only way to get it disarmed is to come up with the cash by robbing a bank. Nick looks to his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) for help.

With a short running time of just 83 minutes the film keeps a brisk pace and other than the first few minutes being flat the laughs are pretty consistent throughout. It never reaches a level of hilarity that might be expected considering the talent involved though. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) keeps things from losing that sense of reality by reigning in the actors to an extent and delivering a slightly darker tone than would have been anticipated.

What ended up being the most interesting element was how Dwayne and Travis (McBride and Swardson) weren’t the typical cliched bumbling idiots coming up with a scheme that was sure to fail. Though certainly not geniuses they craft a fairly well thought out plan. That added to the gravity of how Nick really had to go through with it or figure a way out that wasn’t immediately evident. Otherwise there was little question they would just go ahead and blow him up. Some of the developments along the way were quite clever in that sense.

Most of the movie ends up concentrating on the particular duos of Eisenberg-Ansari and McBride-Swardson. The chemistry between them isn’t remarkable but they do play off each other pretty well. Eisenberg has that quality of being able to deliver a sense of concern and unrest while still being in the center of what is meant to primarily be a comedy and that comes in handy here. Ansari, though damn funny, clearly isn’t acting but instead just going through the motions and reciting his lines. That will work for some and probably be received less positively by others.

What separates 30 Minutes or Less from other comedies this year is that it’s actually a good movie. It may not have had all the biggest laughs but with the plot being taken seriously it is arguably the most well rounded comedy out of a weak 2011 field.

Rating: ★★★½☆