Jesse Eisenberg as Nick
Danny McBride as Dwayne
Aziz Ansari as Chet
Nick Swardson as Travis
Dilshad Vadsaria as Kate
Michael Peña as Chango
Bianca Kajlich as Juicy
Fred Ward as The Major
Elizabeth Wright Shapiro as Chet’s Date
Brett Gelman as Pizza Boss
Paul Tierney as Rodney
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza guy with few long-term goals in life, and his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) is sick of hearing about it, especially when Nick admits his interest in Chet’s sister Kate. When Nick is knocked out by two guys in masks, a bomb is strapped to him and he’s told that he has ten hours to rob a bank if he wants to live. He has to call upon Chet to help him and the two of them have just ten hours to get the criminals their money if Nick wants to live to take Kate out on a date.
In a summer full of R-rated comedies, there have definitely been some standouts and the second movie from “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer may be one of the more surprising ones. Rather than merely taking another high concept approach and adding lots of nudity and swearing, it instead throws the classic heist movie straight into raunchy comedy territory in a way we haven’t seen before. Although at first the central plot may seem rather simplistic, it’s actually as intricate as some of the best bank robbery movies with most of the twists coming out of things not going as planned.
Before we even get to the bank robbery at the center of the story, we meet Jesse Eisenberg’s pizza delivery guy Nick through an impressive bit of stunt driving in the opening title sequence. His best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) is none too happy when he learns Nick has hooked up with his twin sister Kate, and the two have a falling out. Meanwhile, two ne’er-do-wells, Dwayne and Travis, played by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, are hatching a plot to kill the former’s oppressive father in order to get his inheritance. To do so, they need to hire a killer and to do that, they need money. When they see an ad for Nick’s pizza joint, they have their fall guy to get them the money. Nick immediately turns to his former best friend Chet for help robbing a bank and of course, things go wrong. Panicked, Nick needs to do whatever he can to make sure that he’s able to get the bomb deactivated, but as insurance to get their money, the criminals take Kate, adding another level of risk to the affair.
The results are a highly original take on the buddy action comedy, because we’re essentially watching two simultaneous buddy stories unfolding at once and it’s crazy fun watching the relationships between the four main characters. You can tell that they’re all working from a pretty solid script that’s greatly embellished by having such great improvisers like McBride, Anzari and Swardson on board. Fleischer is proving himself to be incredibly skilled at making the most out of the material and budget he’s given, and with his second movie, he once again knocks one out of the park, especially when it comes to keeping things exciting and entertaining.
With all the raunch we’ve already seen this summer it’s hard to believe this one might up the ante, but with Danny McBride playing a character not too far removed from Kenny Powers and his character from “Pineapple Express,” you better believe it. “30 Minutes or Less” is certainly cut from the same cloth as the latter and inspired by the same ’80s and ’90s action-comedies except it works infinitely better. That’s in large part due to its unbendable approach to make sure both the comedy and the action are given equal time with the latter including all the chases, explosions and gun fights you’d expect from any summer action movie but with the type of twists you’d expect in a heist movie. Every single scene moves at an insanely fast pace–even the dialogue is delivered at a lightning speed–never allowing you to get too comfortable with any of it, so the twists take you even more by surprise.
Jesse Eisenberg shows a lot more confidence here than he has in some of his previous roles, presumably residual from his time playing Mark Zuckerberg, but Bruce Willis and Sly Stallone probably won’t have to worry too much about losing jobs to him. Like McBride, Aziz Ansari’s character isn’t reinventing the wheel instead allowing him to do what he does best, which is crack wise. That’s probably why Nick Swardson’s Travis really stands out, because we haven’t really seen him play such a well-rounded character before, one who really moves the story forward rather than just being there for a couple of quick jokes. Similarly, who knows where Michael Pena pulled the character of Chango the hired killer from? He’s almost a caricature of a Latino gangbanger, but it’s such a crazy character you really want to know more about him. Fred Ward is just as well cast as Dwayne’s military father and he seems to relish every minute of being able to chew McBride out.
The movie isn’t perfect though, because the comedy does start to get a bit too madcap at times, but even so, the movie constantly succeeds at mixing balls-out action with raunchy laughs in a way that never skimps on either. When the movie ends, a bit abruptly, it does leave you wanting to see more of these characters, which is rarely a bad thing.
The Bottom Line:
Like the Coen Brothers on speed, “30 Minutes or Less” is an inspired update of the classic buddy action-comedy of the ’80s and ’90s” and one of the fastest and funniest movies you’re likely to see this month.