30 Minutes or Less Review—Bittersweet Laughs Await in This Disappointing Action Comedy

The Basics:

30 Minutes or Less stars Jesse Eisenberg as Nick, a pothead pizza delivery boy skirting through the edges of life.  A textbook slacker, Nick’s only success is his long term commitment to his girlfriend, Kate.  Complications ensue, however, when Nick’s best friend, Chet, discovers his secret relationship with Kate, who just so happens to be Chet’s twin sister.  After a heated argument, the two resolve their friendship.  But when Nick is kidnapped by two bumbling crooks, he enlists Chet’s help to rob a bank within mere hours.  If he doesn’t, a bomb strapped to his chest will go off.  Together, the pair get involved in the adventure of a lifetime, all the while patching up their shaky friendship.

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, and Michael Pena

Written By: Michael Diliberti

Directed By: Ruben Fleischer

Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg

The Delivery:

It was refreshing to go into a film literally knowing NOTHING about its quality.  I had heard no buzz, no hype, no early reviews.  The only thing I brought into the film upon seeing it was my own expectations (as it should be).  Even though security was tight, it was still a fantastic experience, watching a movie with a group of geeks obviously into good films.  And for the most part, it seemed my audience really liked it.  Afterwards, director Ruben Fleischer and cast members Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, and Michael Pena even held a Q&A for the entire audience!  However, a film shouldn’t be judged on viewing experience alone; like always, it should only be judged by the films independent merits.

That said, I did enjoy my time watching 30 Minutes or Less. I had a great audience, and the laughter was pretty consistent.  Heck, I was even laughing a lot.  And for a comedy, that’s all that should matter…right?  Well, that’s what I thought when I left the theater.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how utterly disappointed I was at 30 Minutes or Less? You know why?  Because this film squanders its infinite potential.  And for that reason alone, its a disappointment.

30 Minutes or Less

Like I said, his film isn’t a complete failure; the cast, for one, is spectacular.  Well Jesse Eisenberg does his best, sadly, he was the least interesting character in the entire film.  Well it was interesting to see Eisenberg play against nerdy type as a stoner pizza boy, he doesn’t have very much funny things to do.  The pure winner in this film is Aziz Ansari, who, along with Danny McBride, makes this film.  Those two are the real standouts, and I’m glad to see Ansari entering the film world by storm.  I’ve been a fan of his since Human Giant, and its nice to see him succeed in a high budget comedy.

However, a great cast can get you only so far.  The main thing that detracts from this film is a crippling run time.  The film is approximately 83 minutes long, which is super short for a movie.  I’ll admit; I prefer films with longer run times.  However, that doesn’t mean I automatically hate short films.  In fact, the film I saw the day before, Attack the Block, is one of my favorite films of the year.  That film is only five minutes longer.  And in all honesty, it didn’t impact that film in the slightest.  30 Minutes or Less, however, feels rushed and lacks real narrative fluency.  The characters are simply moving from gag to gag, never giving enough time to really develop the gags.  The third act really suffers from this, and is quite simply a huge mess.  The ending is quite simply a huge mess, with one of the most rushed endings ever.  Seriously, the climax happens and, 30 seconds later, the film’s over.

McBride and Swardson

This is a HUGE problem.  The film is missing a RESOLUTION!  The primary relationship in this movie, between Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg, is never really resolves.  It just solves itself because the audience expects it to.  Hell, the situation should have made the twos relationship even more strained!  When the relationship between Danny McBride and Nick Swardson is more developed then the primary one between the two main characters, you know you have a problem.  Another fifteen minutes could have really benefited this film, not only in terms of character development, but also in terms of pure gags.  The film mostly relies on improvised, dialogue heavy jokes; the best scene in the entire film is the bank robbery, because it has a sense of excitement and conflict to it.  All the situations the characters go through seems to easy.

Finally, for an action comedy, it was severely lacking in action.  Once again, probably due to the short run time.  The film had to concentrate so much on the jokes that it didn’t have time to have any extended action scenes.  I wasn’t asking for Transformers or anything, but the only action in the entire film is a minute and a half chance sequence and a 40 second scene at the end.  That’s pretty much it.  Almost all the action you see in the film is already in the trailer.  It’s a disappointment, too, because Fleischer did a great job combining action and comedy in Zombieland. Just like most things in this film, the individual elements never truly reach the sum of their parts.  And that’s truly a disappointment.

Ansari and Eisenberg

The Scorecard:

Acting- Probably THE standout of the film.  Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride simply steal the show, but a great cast all around.

Directing- Well Fleischer does a confident job, I expected more visual flair from the director of Zombieland.

Writing- The script is rushed, the plot has a supreme lack of conflict for a film dealing with a dude strapped to a bomb and forced to rob a bank, and lacks a good collection of solid and memorable gags.

Sound- It’s a comedy first and foremost, so don’t expect any Inception BWAMMS up in here.

Visuals- Once again, its a comedy.  I didn’t put much thought to the visuals.  The few seconds of action did supply some pretty cool explosion effects, though.


Ultimately, 30 Minutes or Less is a fun film that you’re laugh at in the theaters but, after a little reflecting afterwards, you’ll realize was nothing more then another forgettable, overly gross R-rated comedy.  And that’s truly a shame, because this film could have really been something special.  As it stands, it’s just okay.

Score: 7 out of 10

TMP Review

Loose Ends:

-Didn’t get to mention Michael Pena very much, but he is also very funny in the film.  Sadly, he wasn’t on screen long enough to really get the spotlight.

-That said, the funniest gag in the film involved him giving himself a pep talk in the bathroom.  Believe me, you’ll know it when you see it.

-I find it so strange that Jesse Eisenberg went from Academy Award nominated to this.  Then again, this film started shooting before his nomination, so I guess there was no way he could know he would become a “dignified” actor.

-Danny McBride’s dream in the film is to run a tanning salon/brothel.  Yup, he pretty much plays Danny McBride.  Personally, I don’t find that to much of a bad thing.

-Even though Eisenberg and Ansari had okay chemistry, the best scenes feature McBride and Swardson.  There chemistry is just rock solid.  I would love to see them work together again.

-Finally, never bring a gun to a bomb fight.  That is all.