30 MINUTES OR LESS (Dir. Ruben Fleischer, 2011)
“2 guys in masks jumped me and strapped a bomb to my chest and now I have less than 9 hours to rob a bank.”
Right there a frantic Jesse Eisenberg sums up the premise of this comedy to his best friend Aziz Ansari as a wise-cracking school teacher who responds just as frantically: “And your first thought was to come to a school filled with young children?!!?”
This is one of many spastic exchanges between Eisenberg and Ansari as they run around through this fast, and very funny farcical heist flick set in Grand Rapids, MI.
Like in his directorial debut ZOMBIELAND, Fleischer takes a well worn genre and jazzes it up with a winking wit.There’s shades of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS in the plotting (along with the casting of Danny McBride), along with RAISING ARIZONA and even bits of BOTTLE ROCKET in the mix, but those elements aren’t what makes 30 MINUTES OR LESS tick.
It’s the ton of hilarious lines and amusing moments, many of which were the obvious results of improv (and many out of the mouth of Ansari), and the infectious spirit of how these folks play off one another.
McBride and Nick Swardson are the slacker criminals who kidnap pizza delivery boy Eisenberg and outfit him with a bomb, and it’s because they want the money he’ll rob to hire a hitman (Michael Peña) to kill McBride’s father (Fred Ward) for the inheritance money.
Meanwhile Eisenberg is in love with Ansari’s sister (Dilshad Vadsaria), which is a romantic subplot that doesn’t really matter except for some third act leverage, but I didn’t mind because it raced by like the rest of the action onscreen.
I laughed a lot during this movie. It’s definitely one of the funniest movies of the year, up there with BRIDESMAIDS and HORRIBLE BOSSES. In a chaotic car chase scene with Glenn Frey’s “The Heat is On” blaring on the soundtrack, recalling BEVERLY HILLS COP, I had the sense of being in on the joke more so than in those other comedies.
Though the story comes close to falling apart in its last half, it’s a brisk but bountiful laugh fest (be sure to stay through the credits for a bonus scene) with the everyman Eisenberg, an amped-up Ansari, a much more on point than in the Medieval misfire YOUR HIGHNESS McBride, and the best big screen work of Swardson I’ve ever seen (though that’s not saying an awful lot judging from his filmography).
30 MINUTES OR LESS is getting some attention because of the similarities to a real life happening, but that incident is quickly forgotten once you get with the tone and the timing of this film, and that took less than 30 seconds for me.