30 Minutes or Less

Here be morons


Okay, this is a dopey film, one you can imagine being cooked up over the course of a beery Hollywood weekend. Basically—and believe me, it's a very basic movie, running just 83 minutes—the story concerns two idiots who shanghai a not-much-brighter pizza delivery guy, strap him with a vest full of explosives, and force him to rob a bank for them or they'll use their vest-bomb remote to turn him into a drifting red mist. It's a ridiculous plan, occasioned by the alpha idiot's need for $100,000 to pay a hit man to kill his wealthy father so that the idiot can inherit dad's money and realize his dream of opening a tanning salon that would actually be a front for a whorehouse.

As preposterous as all of this sounds, the story is pretty clearly modeled on an actual 2003 Pennsylvania case involving another not-very-bright pizza delivery guy, Brian Wells, who took part—willingly, in Wells' case—in robbing a bank for two real-life idiots. Wells agreed to be fitted with what he thought was a fake time bomb; he was apprehended by police in mid-heist, though, and then discovered, in one sudden, explosive moment, that the bomb was in fact not fake.

There is, let's be honest, something absurdly humorous about this tale. But Wells' death would make it a little too heavy for a summer comedy, no matter how dumb. And so the writers who concocted 30 Minutes or Less eliminated that part (knowing this, trust me, spoils nothing) and shoveled in some less off-putting elements. Here, the Wells character, a slacker named Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), has been given a best friend named Chet (Aziz Ansari). Chet is a schoolteacher, which you'd think would make him a more level-headed fellow than his pizza-shuttling pal. But after Nick, in the midst of delivering a pie, gets strong-armed into his bomb vest by the two morons, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), Chet agrees, after some token remonstrance, to help Nick out with the bank job. Why would he do that? And why wouldn't Nick go straight to the police in the first place? Are you really asking?

Also inserted into the goings-on are Chet's beautiful sister (Dilshad Vadsaria), for whom Nick nurses a secret passion; a stripper named Juicy (Bianca Kajlich); and her associate Chango (Michael Peña, very funny), a pimp who's prepared to kill Dwayne's moneybags father (Fred Ward) as soon as Dwayne comes up with the $100,000 to make it worthwhile. Inevitably, given the story's pizza delivery motif, director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) has also crammed in some car-chase antics, of a generally unobjectionable sort.  

I can see you sneering. And yet, I found myself laughing pretty much all the way through this movie. The plot is nothing more than a rickety scaffold on which to drape a succesion of gags, many of them improvised by McBride and Swardson. (Looking back over their long, dumb friendship, Dwayne says to Travis, "Remember when we worshipped the Devil for two weeks?" And Travis replies, "Those were the best two weeks of my life.") There are also spurts of political incorrectness (Vadsaria, who is of part-Indian descent, is addressed at one point as "Slumdog."). And of course there's the customary abundance of raunch, which I'll leave for you to savor yourself.

Eisenberg is obviously over-qualified for a picture like this, but he has some nimble comic moments. And Ansari manages to be amusingly over-wound without becoming a complete annoyance. But McBride, with his familiar clueless-weasel persona, and Swardson, with his sweet, stunned-puppy delivery, were born to riff off each other, and they carry the movie. They might not be carrying it to any remotely plausible destination, but on such a short trip, you might not mind going along.  

Kurt Loder is a writer living in New York. His third book, a collection of film reviews called The Good, the Bad and the Godawful, will be out on November 8th from St. Martin's Press. Pre-order here. He is also on Twitter, at kurt_loder.

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  1. Wow – another movie I have no desire to see. And therefore can skip this review. Thanks for taking another for the team, Kurt!

    1. I…can skip this review. Thanks for taking another for the team, Kurt!

      Thanks for skipping the review but taking the time to tell us that you skipped the review, Al!

  2. Zombieland was so awesome as a movie.

    1. Yeah, but it sucked as a toothpick.

    2. Zombieland had some good moments, and could have been filled out to have been quite a good movie. I’m glad they decided to stay fun and keep it short rather than try to fill it out and fail, though.

      1. the nun (was it a nun?) killing the zombies with a falling piano was pretty good, but otherwise it didn’t really reach its potential.

        1. Once all four of them were in the car, the movie just died. And, anti-ironically, it stayed dead.

  3. I’ll probably see this at some point in 2012, whenever Netflix gets the DVD and feels like sending it to me.

    Danny McBride kind of gets on my nerves, though. I didn’t even think Eastbound and Down was that great.

    1. He was good in Tropic Thunder.

      1. “Big-ass titties!”

        Yeah, that was probably the first movie I saw him in. But then he just kept turning up in the comedies I watched (like Due Date, although that sucked whether he was onscreen or not), and I realized I was getting tired of his shtick.

        Don’t get me wrong, though. He’s not nearly as obnoxious as, say, Michael Cera.

    2. A lot of people ask me, ‘Kenny Powers, you’re a giant star. You can get any woman. Have you ever paid for sex?’ And the answer is yes, I have. And it’s actually kinda cool. You can negotiate practically anything and sometimes, even just kind of do stuff in the moment that you never agreed to pay for and it goes by without much argument.

      Danny McBride is more awesome than the dick of God Almighty.

  4. I can see you snearing snoring.

    1. Exactly! WTF does “snearing” mean? Is the root ear? near? smear? snore?

  5. Dilshad Vadsaria… Bianca Kajlich

    Well, it could be worse…

  6. Doesn’t sound any dopier than, say, the plot of For Pete’s Sake.

    But Wells’ death would make it a little too heavy for a summer comedy, no matter how dumb.

    Besides, this was done 75 years ago, to Desmond Tester in Sabotage (1936).

    There’s really nothing new under the sun when it comes to movies.

  7. Sorry, “snearing”? I normally don’t make grammar comments but I’m wondering if this is a new slang word that I haven’t heard of or something.

    Obviously I’m saying this with a bit of a sneer.

    … Hobbit

    1. A) Spelling != grammar.

      B) Insert comma after comments in first paragraph.

      C) Insert comma between antepenult and penult of first paragraph.

  8. “Chet is a schoolteacher, which you’d think would make him a more level-headed fellow than his pizza-shuttling pal.”

    Not us. I mean, unless a Master’s Degree makes you more level headed.

    1. A delivery guy wants to deliver. I mean, why else would you take a shitty salary and really long hours and do that job unless you really love to do it?

    2. That’s just intrinsically paternalistic MBA-type thinking.

  9. That actually does make a lot of sense when you think about it.

  10. How, precisely, does one snear at something? Do you not have spellcheck software at Reason?

    1. Hey man, get your fascist spelling rules out of my personal liberty.

  11. Is it a 1st date or a last date movie?

  12. “It’s a ridiculous plan, occasioned by the alpha idiot’s need for $100,000 to pay a hit man to kill his wealthy father so that the idiot can inherit dad’s money and realize his dream of opening a tanning salon that would actually be a front for a whorehouse.”

    I set the bar pretty low when it comes to comedies, so this alone means I’ll be seeing this movie

    1. there are tanning salons that are NOT fronts for whorehouses?

  13. I had the same idea about using a fake-tan salon as a front for a brothel, but then the govt imposed a bunch of stupid new rules and regulations about running a tanning salon.

  14. Am I allowed to mention “Kurt Scroder” and “Tabitha Sore End” here, or does somebody else have dibs on doing that for every one of these reviews?

  15. and believe me, it’s a very basic movie, running just 83 minute

    I can’t believe I missed this the first time around.

    It’s amazing, though, how the bloat of modern day movies makes 83 minutes seem short. The B-movies of the 30s all ran around 70 minutes, but there were a lot of A-pictures that clocked in at maybe 90 minutes or less.

    William Powell and Myrna Loy were both Oscar-nominated for The Thin Man, which only runs 90 minutes.

    Alfred Hitchcock, who famously commented that the ideal running time for a film was the capacity of the human bladder, had a couple of excellent movies clock in under 83 minutes, including Rope and The 39 Steps.

    Marie Dressler won her Oscar for Min and Bill, a movie which runs just under 70 minutes.

    And the shortest of them all would be Best Picture nominee She Done Him Wrong, which I think is 65 minutes.

    1. He didnt anticipate the ginormous drink sizes we have now.

  16. This movie only serves the purpose of pulling viewers to Parks and Rec via Aziz Ansari to get to the real meat of libertarian television: Ron Swanson.

    “When I walked in this morning I saw that the flag was at half mast, I though, ‘All right, another bureaucrat ate it!’ And then I saw it was Lil’ Sebastian. Half mast is too high. Show some damn respect.”

  17. Hey, Kurt Loser. John Norris and Sway need their bunions rubbed, and Snooki needs a ride from the airport. Get back to work, gramps.

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