With a box office smash (2009’s Zombieland) under his belt and another starring role for the now Oscar-nominated Jesse Eisenberg, Ruben Fleischer’s 30 Minutes Or Less hits with a lot more expectation than the aforementioned zombie-comedy, and the problem of matching it.
About two wannabee criminals (McBride, Swardson) who kidnap a pizza delivery guy (Eisenberg) and strap a bomb to his chest to force him to rob a bank, Dwayne and Travis’ plan is part of a wider scheme to knock off one of their rich fathers, but when a hitman (Peña) gets involved too, the three-way ordeal quickly gets a little messy.
With the opening sequence soundtracked by The Hives, 30 Minutes Or Less is instantly infused with a sense of energy and adrenaline, but as the mix-match tone flows through, based off a script from first-time screenwriter Michael Diliberti, it’s undoings unfortunately often show.
Said not to have been based on the case of pizza delivery man Brian Douglas Wells, though the plot and wider elements are remarkably similar, certainly too close for there to have not been a direct inspiration, the script is laboured, which even despite Fleischer’s intensive style of direction, holds the movie back.
30 Minutes Or Less is very funny, and possesses a lot of the right ingredients, but just feels like it’s lacking something. Though the laughs come thick and fast, they’re more than a little disjointed, and on the whole the narrative feels shallow as you don’t invest in the bromance bonds.
Instead, the film becomes a vehicle for the director and actors to present themselves. Fleischer’s style is again massively appealing, just hopefully next time he’ll have a better screenplay to work with. Eisenberg is good, quick to the draw, though not of the level he put in on The Social Network, and Danny McBride too is entertaining, although he might want to be careful of his next few steps as he’s been playing an awful lot of foul-mouthed dumb oafs of late.
The film was talked up as being the making of Aziz Ansari on the big screen, and as the pizza boy’s best friend, drafted in to help, he’s fantastic. Forever snappy and sharp, it’s he and Nick Swardson – as McBride’s partner-in-crime – that steal the film, while as a hitman with an inferiority complex, Peña is very funny too.
Always unlikely to repeat the breakout success of Zombieland, 30 Minutes Or Less attempts but lacks the wit and surprise of the director’s last film, and the human element too, but it’s still an entertaining film, and reamains one of the better comedies in a generally disappointing year.