A comedy from the director of the hugely enjoyable Zombieland, I was looking forward to seeing 30 Minutes Or Less as soon as I saw the trailer for the very first time. Put your hand up if, like me, you loved Zombieland. That is a good start. Keep your hand up if you also really like star Jesse Eisenberg. Excellent, another bonus. Oh wait, keep your hand up just now. Keep your hand up if you think Danny McBride is hilarious? Good for you. My hand is down by this point though I do often like McBride, I don’t often find his style all that hilarious. One more thing to consider while those remaining hands are up. Do you like Fred Ward, Aziz Ansari and Nick Swardson enough to see them get plenty of time onscreen? I like Swardson quite a lot but can take or leave Ansari (who I didn’t find all that funny here anyway) and Fred Ward has always been a decent, if unspectacular, actor. But my hand was already down anyway. You see, my long-winded point is this: to really end up loving 30 Minutes Or Less you have to basically have kept your hand up and agreed to all of the above points. If you hesitated or lowered your hand then you can still find enough giggles here and there but it’s a fair drop from the brilliance of Zombieland.
Jesse Eisenberg plays a pizza delivery driver named Nick (hence the “30 Minutes Or Less” title) who isn’t doing all that much with his life even though he isn’t completely stupid. His friend is Chet (Aziz Ansari) but the two fight just as often as they get along. Things are made a bit more awkward by the fact that Nick is in love with Chet’s sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria). Danny McBride plays Dwayne, an oaf desperate to get enough money together to pay someone to kill off his overbearing father (Fred Ward) and allow him to collect his inheritance before it is all spent. He impresses his friend, Travis (Nick Swardson), by coming up with the idea of robbing a bank. But of getting someone else to rob the bank for them and then bring them the money. Before you can say “stuffed crust double pepperoni” they have kidnapped their robber. It’s Nick. He wakes up wearing a booby-trapped, explosive vest and is told that he has nine hours to get the job done.
Now, ridicule me if you like for this but, it was this point of the movie that first got my spidey-sense tingling. I certainly know that the movie was called 30 Minutes Or Less because the main character was a pizza delivery boy but I also expected that to lead to a slicker, leaner film with less stuff needing planned and more stuff occurring that sees our would-be robbers (Nick drags Chet along for the ride to help him) way out of their depth with great comedic results. A nine hour time limit makes a hell of a difference, both to the energy of the whole piece and to the time allowed with other, less enjoyable characters (Michael Pena and Bianca Kajlich both did great but their scenes have no urgency and/or, often, point). Let me put this idea forward – if someone comes up with a plan to get someone else to rob a bank and deliver him a LOT of money so that he can pay killers to allow him to get more then . . . . . . . . . why not just set the bank robbers a higher target and get the same or more cash for less risk?
The cast all do what they do (and your enjoyment of the film will depend on your enjoyment of them, as mentioned above) but the movie simply lacks enough great comedy or slick action to be an effective blend of the two. There are many decent little chuckles and a couple of great set-pieces, with the bank robbery itself providing big laughs and a car chase really delivering some decent action, but things never hit the heights that they should.
The script, by Michael Diliberti, hasn’t got enough gags in there and doesn’t have the mix of dumb and clever that many better comedies manage. However, director Ruben Fleischer perhaps didn’t do his best by the material in his casting choices and the pacing of the whole thing.
Despite my misgivings, this is still an enjoyable enough movie and will no doubt appeal to fans of Danny McBride much more than it appealed to me.
30 Minutes Or Less is released in UK cinemas from 16th september.
DIRECTOR: RUBEN FLEISCHER
STARS: JESSE EISENBERG, AZIZ ANSARI, DANNY MCBRIDE, NICK SWARDSON, FRED WARD, MICHAEL PENA
RUNTIME: 83 MINS APPROX