30 MINUTES OR LESS
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Michael Diliberti
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson and Fred Ward
In a year of mostly successful and largely bold comedies, 30 MINUTES OR LESS aims to emulate its main character, Nick (Eisenberg), in being a little more aimless and laid back. The film is aptly brisk, clocking in at a tight 83 minute runtime, with director Ruben Fleischer seemingly unafraid to embrace the limitations of a simple script.
Dwayne and Travis (McBride and Swardson) are small-town losers leeching off of Dwayne’s retired military father’s lotto fortune. The pair decide to hire a thug to off The Major (Ward) so Dwayne can lay claim to his inheritance and get his dad off his back once and for all. To get the money for the assassin, they decide to take a pizza delivery boy hostage; enter Nick. With a bomb strapped to his chest, Nick and his best friend Chet (Ansari) have to rob a bank before day’s end or else Nick will explode at the hands of two of the dumbest crooks in recent cinema history.
The script itself feels sparse, but is deftly brought to life by an ideal cast. Ansari in particular stands out with his typical brand of shout-acting, while it’s refreshing to see Swardson has temporarily removed himself from Adam Sandler’s downward spiral (note that I said “temporary” because BUCKY LARSON is releasing in a few weeks). One of the best jokes in the film is more of a sight-gag, with Swardson’s first onscreen appearance involving an Insane Clown Posse hockey jersey, emphasizing the sort of small town, middle-America, willful idiocy we’re dealing with here.
Michael Peña almost outshines Ansari as Chango, the hired assassin and friend of Dwayne’s favorite stripper. He’s a true example of how to play similar characters in vastly different ways, changing just enough in his cadence and mannerisms to give the audience something different from, say, his character in OBSERVE AND REPORT.
Eisenberg’s character, though somewhat of a slacker, still comes off as incredibly intelligent; it’s difficult to peg if this is just how Eisenberg chooses to play all of his characters or if Nick is supposed to one of those guys who chooses to waste his obvious potential. McBride naturally plays obnoxious white trash idiot like no one else can. There’s little to lament about his characterization, but it almost certainly feels redundant. For anyone only recently familiar with the actor (and I’d venture to guess this is most people), these roles are inevitably growing repetitive. Still, he brings a certain assertive quality to the typical hickish moron character that one can only describe as hick-bro (please let this term happen).
The jokes are fair and sometimes uproarious, though nothing strikes as immediately quotable like this year’s BRIDESMAIDS or HORRIBLE BOSSES, even. There’s no real character growth or development; there are no lessons learned and no morals to the story. 30 MINUTES OR LESS is straight-forward comedy with some solid action accelerant, but offers little below the surface. It’s a 30 minute premise stretched to feature length but keenly aware of the limitations of its premise. After wowing with ZOMBIELAND, which showed legitimate style and substance, Fleischer does little to push himself further in this outing. It almost feels like a warm-up exercise to keep himself agile between games.