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The Independent Critic

Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Danny McBride, Fred Ward, Michael Pena
Ruben Fleischer
Matthew Sullivan, Michael Diliberti
Rated R
83 Mins.
Columbia Pictures

  • Picture-in-Picture Video Commentary with Actors Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson and Director Ruben Fleischer
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Travis Thinks the Major is Jacked
  • Chet Tells Nick Worse Ways To Die
  • Dwayne and Travis Talk Tanning Codes
  • 30 Minutes or Less PS3 Theme/Wallpaper
  • Blowing Up with the Cast & Crew of 30 Minutes or Less
  • The Perfect Crime: Action and Comedy in 30 Minutes Or Less

 "30 Minutes or Less" Review 
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Ruben Fleischer, who directed the unexpected hit Zombieland with its nearly perfect mix of darkness, humor and cheese, can't seem to decide if he wants 30 Minutes or Less to follow that film's cinematic road map.

There are times that 30 Minutes or Less is hysterical. There are times when 30 Minutes or Less is quite dark. There are quite a few moments when 30 Minutes or Less is downright cheesy. Unfortunately, the majority of the time 30 Minutes or Less just falls flat on its face as Fleischer simply can't seem to make up his mind what the film's supposed to be and, as a result, the cast feels out of sync and the film never comes close to achieving its cinematic potential.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is an unmotivated pizza delivery guy who gets kidnapped by two bumbling wannabe cons (played by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), strapped with a bomb to his chest and ordered to come up with $100,000 that will be used to hire a hitman (Michael Pena) to knock off McBride's father (Fred Ward). Nick turns to his best buddy, Chet (Aziz Ansari), an elementary school teacher who proves to possess a nicely volatile edge opposite Eisenberg's more laid back slacker persona for Nick.

It's likely not surprising considering the cast includes Danny McBride and Nick Swardson that 30 Minutes or Less is, for the most part, filled with juvenile humor and a relentlessly immature tone to it. The film constantly feels like it might be on the verge of upping the ante a bit on its comedy and going for that more intelligent, edgier humor that was found in abundance in Zombieland. The problem is that it's difficult to tell where Michael Diliberti's script ends and where the obviously improvisational material actually begins. Much of 30 Minutes or Less feels like spontaneous riffing, the kind of riffing that is hilarious between stoned or drunk friends but that falls woefully short of anything resembling funny when it's actually meant to be entertainment.

It's difficult to decide if Eisenberg is appropriately cast here. Occasionally, it becomes clear that Eisenberg's actually flexing his acting muscles a bit as he milks his usual laid back persona for additional laughs and uses it to wring every inch of comic potential out of a joke. Eisenberg has a terrific buddy chemistry with Ansari, most known for his work on television's Parks & Recreation. I was just having dinner with a friend of mine last night, a friend of 25+ years, and we both observed that he was sort of the assertive/dominant force in our friendship and I was sort of the laid back and contemplative one. Yet, when we're together it's completely combustible. That's the same sort of dynamic that works between these two, a dynamic that occasionally makes funny jokes even funnier.

Danny McBride is here playing yet another variation of his traditional antisocial redneck role. While McBride can certainly make this character funny, it might be time for him to try something new or be content to exist in the background as writer/director for awhile. Nick Swardson also plays a variation on his usual bumbling incompetent characters, but this time he's actually a bit smarter than you'd expect and Swardson also flexes his acting just a touch.

Fleischer proved with Zombieland that he could put together a film weaving together intelligence and idiocy while putting relatively normal characters into hilariously extraordinary circumstances. It seems like he's trying to do the same thing here, but the finished product pales in comparison to Zombieland. For those content to find some really good laughs and an easygoing comedy, 30 Minutes or Less may fit the bill perfectly. While the film is far from a disaster, from a director who's already proven he's capable of so much more it's undeniably disappointing.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic