"30 Minutes or Less," Funny Without Forcing Humor; Great Action Flick

by Jeff Beck, Guest Film Critic
"30 Minutes or Less," Funny Without Forcing Humor; Great Action Flick

RICHMOND, VA (HNN)  - “30 Minutes or Less” is probably the shortest live-action film I’ve seen in the last couple of years, an element that ends up working well to its own advantage.

It also joins the ranks of comedies that are actually funny without trying to force the humor, a trend that seemed like it was taking over mainstream comedies nowadays, but looks like it’s beginning to be sidelined by better comedies of recent months like “Horrible Bosses” and “Bad Teacher.” By not forcing the humor, we get a comedy that feels much more natural as it’s blended into the zany storyline.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza delivery man working for a company that promises delivery in 30 minutes or less or else it’s free. On the last outing of his shift one night, he delivers to a pair of wannabe crooks, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), who are planning on having a hitman murder Dwayne’s father so that he can inherit his vast lotto winnings. But in order to do this, they need to come up with $100,000 to pay a professional hitman, money which they obviously don’t have. To solve this problem, they simply kidnap Nick, strap a bomb to his chest, and tell him to rob a bank within ten hours or else he’ll explode.

With the clock ticking, Nick enlists the help of his best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), to rob the bank. They believe they have it planned out pretty well. They buy ski masks, plastic guns, and other materials, always with Dwayne and Travis close by to make sure Nick doesn’t try anything like running to the police. With everything they need, including a stolen car, they set their plan in action, but, as expected, not everything goes exactly as planned.

One of the first things that struck me about “30 Minutes or Less” was its runtime, a brief 83 minutes (even shorter minus the credits). This is basically a movie with almost all of the fat trimmed off. It wastes no time introducing us to the main characters and getting the plot moving forward. Another trend with some comedies recently is that they have tended to be much too long (“Crazy, Stupid, Love” is a good example). By cutting out the superfluous parts, we get a film that has excellent pacing, no lulls, and an engaging plot.

The humor here is pretty good for the most part. There are a few jokes that lean a bit too far into raunchiness, but mainly the jokes consist of situational comedy and some well-placed one liners that get more of a laugh than when it tries to be raunchier. With its “to the point” structure, we basically get a string of events that act as a springboard for the humor, and this is certainly not a bad thing as the writer, Michael Diliberti, it able to infuse it with quite a bit of humor that helps it move forward nicely.

It’s rather surprising to find out that this is Diliberti’s first produced screenplay, a feat he accomplished after being an assistant for producer Scott Rudin for the past five years, a rather good position to be in if you want to get your script looked at I suppose. It’s a good mix of action, comedy, thrills, and even a small bit of romance. These are all blended together rather well without having one overpower the others.

The film is from director Ruben Fleischer, the same man who brought us the hilarious comedy “Zombieland” merely two years ago, so we know he’s quite capable of doing a film like this, as is Jesse Eisenberg who also starred in that film. Eisenberg is basically playing the same character he plays in every movie he’s in yet again, but for this type of film, it works well. McBride is coming off of the disastrously unfunny “Your Highness,” so he needed something to pick his career back up. Though most of the unfunny raunchiness of the film is from his character, he does get a few good moments.

The only real downside of the film is the small collection of raunchier jokes that could have stood to be removed. Other than that, the film stays at a pretty good comedic level that most will more than likely enjoy. Overall, this is a breezy, fun, and funny film that doesn’t waste any time in getting its story told by propelling its characters into one crazy situation after another, so if it’s a good laugh you’re looking for, “30 Minutes or Less” should be more than enough to satisfy. 3/4 stars.

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