Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Chris’ Take: Ruben Fleischer was the talk of the action-comedy town back in 2009, with his smash hit zombie comedy (or zomcom for short) Zombieland. The script was snappy, the action superb and it was enjoyable from start to finish. His latest comedy attempt, reuniting him with star Jesse Eisenberg, shows only a minute amount of the genius that he displayed.
Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza delivery boy who spends his off time getting stoned and dating the sister of his best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari). When Nick receives a pizza order that takes him out to an abandoned warehouse, he soon finds himself kidnapped by two redneck criminals, Dwayne and Travis (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), who strap a bomb to him and tell him that he has 10 hours to rob a bank or he’ll blow up.
The film starts out fast enough, introducing us to two somewhat likeable idiots as protagonists and Danny McBride channeling his inner Kenny Powers, but we really didn’t get to know the Chet and Nick as well as I would hope. There is about one scene where they are together and we establish that they are “friends”, but immediately there is discord and you don’t feel like you know them enough yet to care. It seemed that Fleischer spent more time establishing who the criminals were, almost to the point of making them sympathetic, that I felt that the film was going to be more of a dark comedy about Dwayne and Travis trying to kill Dwayne’s Dad.
From there, we immediately moved into the second act of the film, which moved rather quickly as well. Chet and Nick try to figure out how to rob a bank and put together a terrible plan, which was sure to bring hilarity, and it did. However, the second act was far too short and a scene which could’ve easily been stretched out, or at least made more comically intense was squandered. Maybe it had something to do with budget, maybe it had something to do with the writers not knowing where to go with a potential hostage situation, but I just felt like it was wasted.
Then, the third act was upon us and stayed for what seemed like forever. At this point, I cared very little about any of the characters involved since Nick and Chet could’ve easily found a way around the previous situations, so they are kind of too dumb to be concerned about. Dwayne and Travis were the funnier pair, but you knew things couldn’t end well for them so it was a waste to root for them too. Michael Pena makes an appearance as a hitman, and was probably the funniest character introduced to the plot, but he kind of brought the laughs a little too late and I was just hoping this would be over as quickly as it started, but it dragged out.
I really felt that a good portion of the time allotted to the conclusion of the plot could’ve been given to the beginning, establishing the friendship between Chet and Nick, or in the middle, lengthening out the ridiculous bank robbing scheme they developed.
When all was said and done (I won’t be specific because I don’t want to spoil it for you if you still want to see it), the actions of the “protagonists” had me pondering whether they were the better people. I guess they didn’t really want to kill anyone, but they definitely weren’t on any moral high ground, which isn’t exactly necessary to establish in a dark comedy, but 30 Minutes or Less didn’t conform to that genre.
With all the talent involved with the project, I expected more, and while I think it was admirable that they tried to limit their time to 83 minutes, I don’t think it was paced well at all. I wouldn’t go as far to say that Ruben Fleischer is a bad director, he’s proven before that he has talent, it just seemed like he was getting lazy this time around. Maybe if he added some zombies this would’ve been right up his alley.
Pac’s Take: I couldn’t agree more.