It’s hard to describe “30 Minutes or Less.” It’s inspired by real events, but lacks the forced “ripped-from-the-headlines” drama that Lifetime channel and Dick Wolf try to stuff down our throats. It’s kind of a buddy movie, except the buddies are neither cops nor bromantic Judd Apatow or Will Ferrell-style douchebags. It’s kind of a heist movie, but it’s one of the most comically inept heists ever put on film. Whatever it is, the result is a delightful piece of crowd pleasing fun.
30 Minutes or Less
At Quality 16 and Rave
The plot centers around Nick (Jesse Eisenberg, “The Social Network”), a pizza delivery guy who stumbles upon Dwayne (Danny McBride, TV’s “Eastbound and Down”) and Travis (Nick Swardson, “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan”), a pair of rednecks who’re paying Chango (Michael Peña, “The Lincoln Lawyer”) to kill Dwayne’s dad so Dwayne can get his million dollar inheritance. First, they have to get Chango’s money, so they kidnap Nick, strap a bomb vest to his chest and give him 10 hours to get them a hundred grand, or he explodes into itty bitty pieces. Nick, in a fit of desperation, calls his ex-best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari, TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) for assistance, and they’re off to rob a bank and avoid a fiery end.
After earning an Oscar nomination for “The Social Network,” Eisenberg goes back to his dorky roots as the awkward man-boy, this time tempered with some campy, comical fear — fear of exploding, fear of cops, fear of prison. It’s Ansari, however, who steals the show with his hilariously frantic, nasally expressions of shock, his ridiculous suggestions delivered in perfect deadpan and his exceptional comedic timing. News that Nick had sex with his twin sister is received with comic outrage. He consults the bomb-making experts at Wikipedia in an attempt to defuse the bomb and, when all else fails, suggests that Nick cut off his arms and wiggle out. And his little song-and-dance number before the robbery will have audiences in stitches.
Director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) shapes all this into a lean, fast-paced movie that effectively guides its audience through its bizarre, the-writers-were-super-high premise. Though the movie lacks some of the “Zombieland” visual pizazz, Fleischer nevertheless manages to maintain a comic atmosphere throughout the film, injecting short bursts of suspense to keep the audience on its toes. Fleischer has little to no eye for action — the film’s car chases seem static, crashes are surprisingly dull and explosions look cheap — but these moments are mercifully short and easily forgotten.
It’s McBride and his hillbilly shtick that really drag down the film. The script doesn’t give him or Swardson much to do beyond sit around and act like rednecks, and to their credit, they do this relatively well. But uneducated-and-proud-of-it, borderline racist rednecks are nobody’s favorite kind of people, and the joke gets stale very, very fast. Fortunately, it’s not enough to torpedo the film, which remains one of the best feel-good movies of the summer.