Director: Ruben Fleischer
If Al Pacino had had his wits about him in Dog Day Afternoon, he would have coerced someone else into doing his bank robbery for him. That’s exactly what Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) do; they strap a homemade bomb vest on to pizza boy Nick’s (Jesse Eisenberg) chest, and present him with an ultimatum. If Nick doesn’t rob $100,000 for them from a bank, he explodes. It’s an ingenious scheme, but it’s about as clever as 30 Minutes Or Less actually gets. Dumb is often welcome in comedy, but this is not altogether one of those times.
Dwayne and Travis’ intention was to find a perfect idiot to run their criminal errand, and Nick’s reaction to his predicament indicates they might have found their man. With the bomb around his midriff, he goes to the school where his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) teaches. In a typically hilarious exchange between the two, Chet berates Nick for bringing a bomb to a school, then agrees to help. Ansari and Eisenberg’s bickering is the best thing about 30 Minutes Or Less. Whether beating each other up over unfortunate sexual encounters, or discussing pseudonyms to use during the bank robbery, they are hilarious. Ansari is all high-pitched, wide-eyed panic, whilst Eisenberg’s nervy stoner should repel some of the accusations that he plays very similar characters in his films. It’s a good thing that these two have such chemistry, because McBride and Swardson are complete charisma vacuums. Their presence on screen is the complete antithesis of Eisenberg’s and Ansari’s. They are not sympathetic, they are not charming and (crucially) they are not funny! Dwayne and Travis are a loathsome combination of unlikeable characters and crass dialogue, human embodiments of fingernails on a blackboard.
Director Ruben Fleischer brings the same giddy energy to 30 Minutes Or Less that he brought to Zombieland, delivering car crashes and big bangs aplenty. However, this does mean some awkward shifts in tone, as silly banter switches to car chases and blood in a flash. As time goes on, the plot becomes more and more convoluted; Michael Diliberti’s script mistakes multiple plot strands for intelligence, which just isn’t this film’s forte. Thus, we get Dwayne’s father (Fred Ward), a stripper (Bianca Kajlich) and her hitman boyfriend (Michael Peña) jostling for screentime. It’s utterly chaotic in its plotting, but 30 Minutes Or Less gets a pass because it manages to elicit enough stupid belly laughs, and at 83 minutes it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Just be prepared to overcome some substantial obstacles to get to the funny.