"Wham, bam, thank you ma'am."
That should have been the tagline for Reuben Fleischer's newest comedy 30 Minutes or Less. The film, at 83 minutes in length, is like a one-night-stand, fun while it lasts but forgettable in the morning.
Jesse Eisenberg stars as Nick, a pizza delivery guy who spends his nights driving, with questionable skill, like a nut-job around his small town. With every pizza, Nick must make his delivery before a half an hour has passed or it will come right out of his income. The residents of Nick's town know how incredibly difficult and stubborn this policy is, enforced by Nick's ruthless boss, that they decide to abuse the system at any chance they can get. Nick, a romantic at heart, has slowly become jaded by his terrible job and its effect on his life in general.
It doesn't help that Nick's best-friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) has stumbled into success and beyond offering him some sympathy he continues to constantly pester Nick about getting a new job. Instead, Nick would rather spend his time drinking, smoking, and hitting on Chet's sister. Nick's whole world is moving on without him and it seems that all he needs is a swift kick in the rear to get his life on the right track.
That swift kick comes in the form of a bomb. Local idiots, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), plan to kill Dwayne's ruthless military commander father in order to force an early inheritance. However the two aren't up to the task of killing Dwayne's father themselves so they hire a hitman (Michael Pena) to do the job for them. The only thing they have to do is get a large some of cash to pay him.
Before long, the two order a pizza and strap a bomb-vest to Nick who they order to rob a bank or face the bomb exploding. If at the end of 10 hours he doesn't deliver... KA-BOOM!
As far as plot goes, that's about all that 30 Minutes or Less has to offer. Sure there are some twists and turns, but director Reuben Fliescher (Zombieland) seems mostly concerned with getting to the end of his story rather than explore his characters and the situations they find themselves in.
This quick and care-free pace makes for a fun film that never really takes itself very seriously; think Fargo but without all the drama and intensity that makes that film so engaging. The characters go through all the paces you would expect and its all a great deal of fun to watch them do so. However, because there isn't much time spent on the who and why it renders a lot of the moments as smaller than they were intended to be. When Nick finally gathers the courage to quit his job, it doesn't feel cathartic or exciting because the film never really gives us a reason to care.
The film is funny, packing in a fair deal of goofy violence and profanity that never quite goes over the top or offends. Its great for a few laughs, but don't expect to be quoting or even remembering any of the jokes after you've left the theater. If the stakes had been treated more seriously, it might have increased the tension and heightened the shock value. As someone who feels like the best laughs come in the face of danger (see any Indiana Jones movie), I feel like there was a bit of a missed opportunity here.
Eisenberg and Ansari deliver performances that are easy to relate to and fun to laugh along with. There isn't a ton for them to do, as far as developing their characters, but they seem to be having fun inhabiting their roles. The same could be said for McBride and Swardson, who dominate the laughs, as they bounce from goofy scenario to goofy scenario.
In the end, 30 Minutes or Less isn't an ambitious film nor is it a film that is about really anything at all. Fleischer's direction doesn't really stand out or have any particular style, like we had hints at in Zombieland, but he keeps it easy to watch and moderately paced. With a talented, charismatic cast and a clever premise 30 Minutes or Less isn't a bad way to spend 83 minutes. It just would have been a much better way to spend 30 minutes.
|2.5 / 4 Reels|