There’s nothing inherently funny about the premise of 30 Minutes or Less. That is, unless you find the notion of a guy being forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped across his chest hilarious. Loosely based on a real-life incident in 2003 that ended quite differently, director Ruben Fleischer’s breathlessly-paced, foul-mouthed raunchy comedy wastes no time with character building and gets straight to the heart of the mad-cap silliness – something that works in its favor, considering the slightness of the concept.
Newly minted Academy Award-nominee Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) plays Nick, a 20-something slacker who earns a measly living as a pizza delivery man for a joint he can’t stand. Instead of getting a real job and moving up like most people would, Nick is content with wasting time smoking pot, watching buddy-cop action comedies, and flirting with Katie (Dilshad Vadsaria), the sister of his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari), a middle-school teacher whom he shares a love-hate relationship with.
Elsewhere, white trash imbeciles Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) hatch a plan to assassinate Dwayne’s father The Major (Fred Ward), a filthy rich ex-Marine who slaps Dwayne around, and collect the inheritance money to fund their idiotic tanning salon/prostitution business. To pay the assassin, they kidnap Nick, strap him to a bomb and advise him that he has 24 hours to come up with $100,000 before the bomb detonates.
Terrified, Nick enlists the help of a reluctant Chet and the duo set out to rob a bank, in the way two regular guys would. Naturally, nothing ever goes right leading to the characters diving head-first into the crux of some hilarious and downright messed up situations. Things get more complicated when a B-grade gang-banger named Chongo (Michael Pena) gets thrown into the mix. Mayhem ensues, F-bombs are dropped, confusion is added to the factor, more F-bombs are flashed, everything goes to hell, and you’ll leave the theater with a smile.
With 30 Minutes or Less, Fleischer, who also directed the terrific zombie comedy Zombieland, once again illustrates his knack for perfectly blending riotous comedy with expertly staged action without losing focus of his characters. Assisted by a witty (and albeit mostly improvised) script by Michael Diliberti and effective performances from the entire cast, this film is another reason why Fleischer is a talent to keep an eye out for. Eisenberg, coming off a career-high with The Social Network, once again illustrates his knack for playing intelligent social-misfits (there’s even a sly nod to David Fincher’s masterpiece). Ansari, easily one of the funniest comedians in the nation, steals the show with his rapid-fire delivery, vivid expressions and smart-ass comments. Swardson, another gifted jokester, isn’t lucky while McBride continues to annoy me by playing his jerk characters.
30 Minutes or Less is a consistently funny comedy that, with a short running time and simple premise, doesn’t outstay its welcome. Solid direction, a funny script and good work by most of the cast make it an entertaining late summer comedy. Though it’s unlikely to breakout like Bridesmaids, The Hangover Part 2, Bad Teacher or Horrible Bosses, it makes a fitting conclusion to the summer of the R-rated comedy.