If you have seen Zombieland, you’ll already have a good idea of what to expect from 30 Minutes Or Less. Zombieland saw director Ruben Fleischer and star Jesse Eisenberg team up to create a slacker comedy packed with sharp humour and characters you actually liked, and Fleischer and Eisenberg’s new collaboration largely emulates the success of that film, albeit swapping out zombies for crime.
Eisenberg plays Nick, an employee at a pizza store with the titular 30 minute delivery promise. He shares an apartment with his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari), until Chet finds out about the intimate relationship between his twin sister and Nick and freaks out. Meanwhile, frustrated millionaire’s son Dwayne (Danny McBride) decides to act on advice a stripper gives him to have his father killed, and just needs a hundred thousand dollars to pay for the hit. The solution? Order a pizza, drug the deliverer, strap a bomb to his chest and give him ten hours to go and rob a bank. Nick ends up as the hapless guy wearing a C4 vest, forcing him to go to Chet and beg for his help to pull off the heist. As preposterous as this all sounds, it is tightly enough scripted to convey it all with a minimum of contrivance and skips along quickly enough to avoid too much introspection about the absurdity. The plot is serving as little more than a foil for a buddy comedy, after all, and so can be forgiven its moments of contradiction (how many time-pressured scenarios can you think of where a diversion is made to quit a crappy job?).
The most important thing for such a film is the strength of the cast, and here everyone gives a competent, if not particularly adventurous, performance. Aziz Ansari replicates the same highly strung role that you may have seen in shows like Scrubs and Parks and Recreation, but his sense of comic timing is spot on. After a breakout role in The Social Network Eisenberg gives the impression that he is coasting here, but his immense likeability pervades through every scene. The jokes themselves are of varying quality and several scenes feel out of place, but they come rapidly enough to ensure that when one doesn’t work there isn’t a noticeable gap in the humour, and there’s enough that hit the mark to generate a fair few laughs.
30 Minutes Or Less conjures up the workshy sense of the main characters in the film. It’s funny, but it doesn’t try too hard to do anything else. This is probably for the best, as it allows it to stand on the merits of its comedy without being burdened with regards for character development or plot. And on that judgement, it largely succeeds. For 90 minutes of disposable enjoyment, you could do an awful lot worse than this.