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30 Minutes or Less: A Capsule Review

August 12, 2011

I really enjoy films that fall into the ‘One Crazy Day/Night’ category –  the ’80s were ripe with them, After Hours, Adventures in Babysitting, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Something Wild are among my favorites.  There is something very appealing about watching ordinary people cope with absurdly unusual circumstances in a short span of time – I think all films kind of tap into my yearning for escapism, but this genre in particular tends to be especially transporting for me.

In spite of my fondness for this type of thing, I had relatively low expectations going into 30 Minutes or Less. Having been disappointed by the comedic offerings of 2011 (Your Highness and Bad Teacher left me feeling pretty grim), I knew better than to get excited about a movie just because I liked the cast (Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari and Danny McBride – to name a few) and director (Ruben Fleischer of Zombieland fame). The beginning of 30 Minutes or Less did little to assuage my concerns, the introduction to the four main characters felt familiar in a bad way with no one being particularly interesting or amusing. We meet Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), an embittered pizza-delivery man who loathes his job and seemingly everyone around him – and his childhood friend Chet (Aziz Ansari), a school teacher whom Nick resents for maturing into adulthood without him. The introduction to Dwayne and Travis (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, respectively) – two n’er-do-well, adult slackers who plot to kidnap a pizza delivery boy and force him to rob a bank for them by rigging said person up with an explosive vest  - feels like a potpourri of characters that you have seen before.

Luckily – and to my dismay – it doesn’t take terribly long for Dwayne and Travis to put their plan into action. They successfully abduct Nick and coerce him to commit an act of robbery for them, Nick in turn seeks the help of his estranged friend Chet – and from there the film proceeds at a pace that doesn’t slow down.  The action sequences and car chases that ensue are deftly executed, and the actors are allowed to showcase their comedy chops. For all of it’s shortcomings in the first 20 minutes, 30 Minutes or Less makes up for it by being hilarious, stupid-fun ( if a touch dark – unexpected scenes of violence caught me off guard) until the very end.

30 Minutes or Less is a welcome entry to a genre that I enjoy.



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