Directed by: Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Dilshad Vadsaria
Ruben Fleischer’s 30 Minutes or Less is a film that’s wholly dependent on how you react to the people it puts on screen. If you experience violent annoyance at Jesse Eisenberg once again playing his usual Jesse Eisenberg self, then this isn’t a film for you. If you think Danny McBride and Adam Sandler hanger-on Nick Swardson are the festering armpit of comedy, sickening everything they’re in with an adept lack of tact or subtlety, then please, see something other than 30 Minutes or Less. But if you’re the type that doesn’t mind these things—or can simply stomach them—then here’s a movie that, while never spectacular, can be a amusing diversion.
The plot of the film is somewhat convoluted, with terminal screw-up Dwayne (McBride) deciding to hire a hitman to knock off his millionaire father (Fred Ward) in order to pick up his inheritance and—being a dreamer—open a combination tanning salon and brothel. The only problem is that the hitman’s asking price is $100,000, so Dwayne—with the help of his best friend and self-taught explosives expert Travis (Swardson)—concocts a plan to kidnap a pizza boy, strap a bomb to him and force him to hold up a bank before he’s blown up in nine hours.
The pizza deliveryman they end up with is Nick (Eisenberg), who has little else in his life beyond a dead-end job and a crush on his best friend Chet’s (Aziz Ansari, Funny People) sister (TV actress Dilshad Vadsaria). So with a bomb strapped to his chest and reluctant help from Chet, Nick sets out to rob a bank and save his own life. Of course, things don’t go quite to plan for anyone, but if they did, we wouldn’t have much of a movie.
The bulk of the comedy is of the R-rated violence and vulgarity variety, something that’s getting more and more difficult to make look fresh in a summer already over-stuffed with R-rated comedies. A couple of scenes, like Nick and Chet stealing a car, and the scene where they actually rob the bank, actually work. But the rest is McBride—as a brash maroon, per usual—and Swardson riffing off one another in a string of nonsequiturs and raunchy randomness. The odd aspect of this, however, that together, I didn’t find the two nearly as groan-inducingly off-putting as I normally do, but rather somehow tolerable. It might be that I’ve just become numb to McBride’s style of scattershot uncouthness masquerading as humor. Or it might be that Swardson is almost likable when he doesn’t have Sandler there to enable him.
I think it’s a mix of those two factors, and the fact that 30 Minutes or Less is a film about friendship—between not just the characters of Nick and Chet, but Dwayne and Travis, too. Both pairs work well off each other, acting like friends really would—fallings out and all—and this is what makes the film work more than it doesn’t. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence