Take it the right way when I say that its short running time is one of the best things about 30 Minutes Or Less. Coming in at a swift 83 minutes, the movie never comes close to wearing out its welcome, a crucial factor for a movie this crude, this silly, and this reliant on keeping the audience on board with its paper-thin premise. Boasting solid comedic work from all four leads, plus director Ruben Fleischer's knack for executing both humor and action, 30 Minutes or Less is a quick and dirty adventure that knows exactly how to go over the top and then quit while it's still soaring.
Stepping agilely into R-rated comedy, and playing a guy who's an even bigger jerk than Mark Zuckerberg, Jesse Eisenberg kicks off the fast pace in character as Nick, a pizza delivery guy driving like a maniac to beat the clock that says the pizza is free after half an hour. He shows up late to deliver the pie to two 14-year-olds who knew he wouldn't make it anyway, then proceeds to rip the kids off for $40 and buy some beer-- he's just that kind of guy. His childhood best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) has the usual encouraging words about moving on and getting a real job, but Nick seems content to flirt constantly with Chet's accomplished sister (Dilshad Vadsaria), drink and smoke too much, and be one of those small-town guys you expected more from but who never goes anywhere worthwhile.
Meanwhile, at an absurd McMansion built in the boonies off lotto money, dimwits Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) plan to kill Dwayne's dad for the sake of early inheritance, but in order to pay off the hitman brought in from Detroit (Michael Pena), they need a ton of cash now. Nick is their unlucky dupe, a bomb strapped to his chest with 10 hours to hold up a local bank and deliver the money. Nick is fresh from a nasty fight with Chet but visits his friend-- at his substitute teaching job, at a school filled with kids-- to ask for help. Thus the world's two least-prepared bank robbers try to execute their plan, while the world's two least competent extortionists stay on their tail; all the while Pena's very prepared, very competent hitman is heading to town looking for his cash and prepared to escalate the violence from jokey, boyish nonsense to actual bloodshed.
That's pretty much it as far as plot goes-- I told you, 30 Minutes or Less keeps it simple-- and though there's some improvisation among the two sets of friends on their respective missions, Fleischer doesn't indulge himself with overlong scenes or keeping in any more jokes than the film absolutely needed. The plot, basic and familiar as it will be, constantly drives the film forward, and though scenes are crammed with profanity and dick jokes that push the R-rating to its limit, it always feels of a piece with the rough-and-tumble characters and even the action scenes they're thrown into. It never stops being fun to see Nick's shitty car squealing around corners to get away from the cops or the bad guys, or to watch Dwayne needle Travis or Chet panic in the passenger seat; by the time one action bit or character conflict has worn itself out, it's on to the next one, the movie stepping along at a brisk but never frantic pace.
Despite a heartfelt performance from Eisenberg that gives the movie some emotional heft, 30 Minutes Or Less isn't really about anything, which makes it possible to laugh along with some goofy violence but also difficult to remember much about it once it's over. 30 Minutes or Less doesn't have the imaginative hook of Fleischer's Zombieland, and its boyish, lowbrow humor and occasional violence means it might not appeal to such a wide audience. But it's an excellent further example of Fleischer's skill behind the camera and the talent of its four leads, a funny and fast-paced blast of silly energy, willfully dumb with a clever streak that keeps it afloat just long enough.
Reviewed By: Katey Rich