18 September 2011

Movie Review: 30 Minutes or Less


B-

30 Minutes or Less
2011, 83mins, 15
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Writer (s): Michael Diliberti, Matthew Sullivan
Cast includes: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Dilshad Vadsaria, Michael Pena
UK Release Date: 16th September 2011

In 2009 Ruben Fleischer made his feature directorial debut with “Zombieland”, an amusing farce that showcased a surprising degree of ambition from the novice filmmaker. It is peculiar then to observe him play it so safe with his sophomore effort “30 Minutes or Less”, the picture rarely striving to break convention. Sure the film has a vulgar potty mouth and a solid helping of raunchiness, but realistically it’s just a fluffy diversion, built to deliver a few laughs and entertain audiences over its wonderfully brief 83 minute runtime. So whilst it’s disappointing to watch Fleischer lower his aim here, there’s no denying that “30 Minutes or Less” actually makes good on its severely limited expectations. It’s a moderately fun flick, played gamely by an alert cast; but do you know what’s best of all? It gets the job done in under an hour and a half.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is well into his twenties, yet still spends his days smoking weed and delivering pizzas for a living. His buddy Chet (Aziz Ansari) and crush Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria) are moving on with their lives, but Nick remains stuck in his adolescent ways. Whilst on the job one evening, Nick is taken hostage by Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), a pair of nincompoops who need Nick in order to enact a convoluted inheritance scam. They require a professional assassin to kill Dwayne’s wealthy father (Fred Ward), but before that they need $100,000 to pay him. Strapping a bomb to Nick’s chest, the goons order him to rob a bank and attain their loot, giving the frightened slacker 10 hours to complete the mission. Nick cajoles Chet into helping him, together planning out a robbery far beyond their skill or intelligence. Things turn from bad to worse when the disillusioned professional killer Chango (Michael Pena) rolls into town, keen to dispatch of everyone involved with Dwayne’s ludicrous scheming.

There’s really not that much to be said about “30 Minutes or Less”. It’s an efficient, slightly above average studio comedy, which offers some good jokes, but is unlikely to linger long in the memory. Both doubles acts featured in the movie are appealing; Eisenberg and Ansari making for a particularly unusual but well matched team. Ansari is the shining star, the comedian making the most out of his material with a frenzied and jocose turn. After his excellent but stern performance in “The Social Network” last year, it’s refreshing to see Eisenberg taking himself less seriously again, although his relaxed performance here isn’t as strong as his neurotic rambling from “Zombieland”. Fleischer never gives viewers any real insight into these characters, thus robbing “30 Minutes or Less” of any true weight, but I doubt that was ever really on his directorial agenda. Instead he probably just wanted the movie to have two entertaining and vibrant protagonists, with some solid chemistry thrown into the mix. If that’s the case then he has succeeded.

Swardson and McBride are good fun, although their various improvisations feel less consistently inventive than those shared between Eisenberg and Ansari. McBride also still appears determined to play the same character in every movie; something I had hoped might’ve changed after the deservedly uninspired response to his last film “Your Highness”. Still, for the purposes of this simple tale his idiot routine is ample, and he shares a respectable onscreen bond with Swardson. “30 Minutes or Less” is enthusiastically helmed by Fleischer, who stages several well handled car chases and continues to demonstrate an admirable understanding of comic timing. The bank robbery set-piece delivers in the giggle department, as do several other sequences in the movie. I would never describe “30 Minutes or Less” as being hysterical, but it is frequently merry.

The romantic angle shoved into the screenplay doesn’t really work (although it provides Eisenberg to flex his dramatic muscles a bit), but given the picture’s already brief length it’s not a major concern. “30 Minutes or Less” is well intentioned nonsense, a watchable and serviceable comedic endeavour. If in 6 months time you’re struggling to elect something to rent on a Friday night, this minor caper should fill the hole adequately.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011

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