Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride
With this summer’s catalog being anything other than remarkable, one would at least hope something as purposely nonsensical as Ruben Fleischer’s latest could be precisely what the doctor ordered. Relying solely on a premise thinner than a Ritz cracker, 30 Minutes or Less forgoes the path an infinitely more enlightened film would take in favor of remaining almost offensively unrefined, vulgar and above all, consistently funny. While two-thirds of this small list of descriptors rings decisively true, it’s unfortunate that this sophomore effort falls but a bit flat in the realm of effective lowbrow comedy.
Focusing on twentysomething pizza delivery boy Nick as an unfortunate run-in with a pair of lowlifes leaves him with a bomb strapped to his chest and less than ten hours to rob a bank, the gentleman in question is forced to reconcile with recently estranged best bud Chet in an effort to tag team the dirty deed. Running just under ninety minutes, the film almost glaringly coincides with its title as it wastes no time at all jumping right into the thick of the proceedings. From start to finish, a lightning fast pace becomes responsible for not letting us dwell on just how ridiculous a majority of the situations presented really are, let alone how the easiest parts of Nick and Chet’s race against the clock end up being both grand theft auto and armed robbery respectively.
Very ungracefully establishing itself as an outlandish buddy action-comedy early on, 30 Minutes or Less very rarely (and clumsily) attempts to examine anything outside of the aforementioned duo’s task at hand. Sure, various details are thrown around in an attempt to make sense of everything and everyone involved, but when it comes down to it, they all become negligible as soon as the abrupt, almost maddeningly simplistic ending rolls around. In other words, if it weren’t for sporadic, prolonged bouts of hilarity coupled with some mildly pulse-pounding action sequences, the production as a whole would’ve ultimately failed in achieving what it was obviously going for.
The efforts of a mostly talented cast help 30 Minutes or Less immensely as straightforward ridiculousness leads to inanity. Mr. Eisenberg partially and very unsubtly reprises his role from Fleischer’s debut Zombieland, providing his character Nick with a slightly more heightened sense of worthlessness as his less than desirable existence forces him to make irrational yet ultimately helpful decisions throughout his and Chet’s perilous journey. Aziz Ansari as Chet, needless to say, is an absolute blast to watch interact with his costar, yet both he and Danny McBride are both becoming startlingly one-note when it comes to their personal brands of comedy. This aside, Nick Swardson and the rest of the supporting cast elevate each scene well above what they could’ve been and transform the film into something slightly above average.
As yet another disappointing benchmark in an equally disappointing season of subpar atrocities, 30 Seconds or Less only partially fits the bill. In delivering everything its marketing campaign suggested it would, the film is indeed a raucous, nonstop thrill ride with enough laughs and predictable bouts of more action-oriented absurdity to compliment some appropriate pacing. An immensely talented cast ensures that the films faults aren’t nearly as noticeable as they should be, however the film as a whole ultimately fails to be as fun and mindlessly engaging as we may have all expected it to be prior to opening day.