The main character of 30 Minutes or Less is a pizza delivery guy. This is apt, because the movie itself is a lot like cheap pizza: predictable and bland, but still enjoyable if it’s what you’re in the mood for.
The setup is fairly simple. Dwayne (Danny McBride) wants to hire someone to kill his ex-Marine father so he can inherit the old man’s lottery winnings. But the hit will cost $100,000, so he hatches a plan with his dim-witted friend Travis (Nick Swardson) to force someone else to steal the money for them. They capture pizza guy Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest, and give him 10 hours to come back with the cash. (This is not as far-fetched a plan as it sounds – the movie is loosely inspired by real events.) Nick and his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) have to rob a local bank and somehow survive to save Nick’s life.
None of the four leads is pushing their boundaries here – they’re all playing exactly the type of character they’ve become known for. They’re all very good at this, of course, and it’s fine if you’re a rabid fan of any of them, but for the rest of us every scene in the movie feels like we’ve seen it before.
The script itself has similar problems, adding to our sense of deja vu. It also plays fast and loose with its characters to suit the action of the moment. Dwayne and Travis seem barely able to rub two sticks together in one scene, yet in the next they’re criminal masterminds and explosives experts. Nick and Chet bicker and obsess over minute concepts, yet somehow manage to plan and execute elaborate ideas. Again, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, but we can see the movie trying to be clever, and the humour misses more than it hits.
Puzzlingly, it’s also quite tame, despite its R rating (14A in Canada) and edgy reputation. You won’t be able to take the kids to it, but there’s very little raunchiness apart from some brief nudity and prostitution references. The most off-colour moment is a brief easter egg after the closing credits, and even that feels like its holding back.
And yet, despite these problems, the movie is strangely compelling. At 83 minutes, it moves as fast as the Ford Mustang that Nick bombs around town in, and for every problem that takes us out of the movie, there’s a plot twist or very funny throwaway line to draw us back in. Great editing saves the film from being a complete yawner.
30 Minutes or Less is slightly more than the sum of its parts, but it’s still only above average fast food – filling, but not necessarily satisfying.
Tags: movie review