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30 Minutes or Less (2011)

August 19, 2011

written by: Michael Diliberti & Matthew Sullivan
produced by: Stuart Cornfeld, Ben Stiller & Jeremy Kramer
directed by: Ruben Fleischer
rated R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence)
83 min.
U.S. release date: August 12th, 2011

After thoroughly enjoying his last feature, “Zombieland”, I found myself eagerly awaiting director Ruben Fleischer’s next move. His movie was a fun and smart, creative and well-acted sub-genre jaunt, worthy of repeated viewings. Unfortunately, the exact opposite can be said about his new movie. After watching “30 Minutes or Less”, I can now say that I will approach any future features by Fleischer with apprehension. 

The story takes place in Grand Rapids, Michigan (of all places), focusing on two losers and their sidekicks. We first meet Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), a child-man who is perfectly content coasting through life delivering pizzas, but shows disdain when his only friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) reminds him that he is now holding down a legitimate middle school teacher. Nick is one of those self-absorbed slacker-losers who shows no interest in anyone else’s interests, until he needs something from someone else. Therefore, it really doesn’t matter to him that Chet is weirded out when he learns that Nick has the hots for Katie (Dilshad Vadsaria), his twin sister. And apparently, it shouldn’t matter to us what Katie might see in this unlikable introvert. 


The other loser is Dwayne (Danny McBride, defaulting to his own stereotype), a man-child who lives under the disappointing glare of his ex-Marine father, known as The Major (Fred Ward, the only actor worth watching here). Dwayne’s only friend is Travis (Nick Swardson), a dimwit lackey with a talent for explosives and (unlike Dwayne) has a slight empathetic side. Travis is pulled into a scheme Dwayne hatches after a stripper named Juicy (Bianca Kajlich) gives him the idea to off The Major and inherit his millions. All they need is some loser to strap a bomb to and force him to rob a bank, because the local stereotypical Latin gangster, Chongo (Michael Peña, really slumming it here) demands $100, 000 to knock off the old man. So, why not pick on the local pizza delivery guy? 

Of course, things go wrong and forced hilarity follows, but sadly, that’s about all there is to it, in this silly and vulgar exercise that challenged me to stay awake. It’s sad to see a talented cast wasted on nothing roles. Eisenberg and Ansari riff well off each other, but such improv is effortless for Ansari, whereas Eisenberg comes across as cartoonish.

Come to think of it, that’s a fitting description. Once Eisenberg is in counting down to oblivion, he turns into Daffy Duck with Ansari (whose character has an affinity for “Point Break”) quipping witty remarks like Bugs Bunny. Thankfully, Peña is not quite Speedy Gonzalez. 

The other Looney Tunes played by McBride and Swardson come across as an amalgam of Sylvester the cat and Wile E. Coyote. I see McBride is an actor that is capable of much more than the work he agrees to. Although taking one blowhard white-trash role after another loud redneck role, isn’t convincing Yes, it’s easy to see all these characters living in 83 minutes of some kooky cartoon world, filled with overused penis and sex jokes that lemmings love. 

Despite the tasteless humor and flimsy characters, the movie might’ve worked if it wasn’t for that blasted bomb. Call me sensitive, but I’m one of those guys who thinks that the threat of a live bomb strapped to some guy just isn’t all that funny. I guess I was expecting a zany madcap romp, but my boredom led me to think about how a more effective move would’ve been to take such subject matter more seriously. I envision Eisenberg and McBride playing it straight in a taut, sweaty thriller, rather than what we have here.

Recently, the media is aghast at how closely this story resembles a horrific incident which took place back in 2003. It turns out something very similar actually happened to a 46 year-old Philadelphia pizza delivery man, and the result was his unfortunate death. Now, just about everyone involved in the making of this movie are claiming to have not known about this event at all, except the two screenwriters, who say there were vaguely aware of the event but not influenced by it at all. 

Uh huh, fine. Not very classy, but it’s kind of hypocritical for everyone to get in an uproar over this when “Final Destination 5” was released on the same day. I haven’t heard or read the same type of disgust over that movie’s inclusion of a disastrous expansion bridge collapse, when that actually happened back in 2007 in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area back, killing 13 and injuring 145 during rush hour. Where is the uproar over that big-screen visual? 

Oh media, you’re so fickle with what you want us to get indignant about. On to the next outrage, as always.

“30 Minutes or Less” finds Fleischer taking a crack at another sub-genre: the heist comedy (with a dash of: the buddy comedy), and the result is frankly quite unfunny and boring. In a summer bloated with R-rated comedies (the majority of them I’ve decided to pass on just by the trailer alone), here’s more raunch for you, complete with all the tedious requisite tropes that is identifying the downfall of R-rated comedies that were once smart and clever. The result is a movie that took less than 30 minutes for me to realize that it failed to deliver.
RATING: *1/2 

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