’30 Minutes or Less’ review: Criminal negligence
Ansari steals the scene (and cash) in ‘30 Minutes’
What do you get when you pit two smart guys who dive head-first into idiocy against two idiots who have delusions of grandeur? A spastically humorous, obscenely foul-mouthed and disappointingly unfocused comedy that was this close to being comical.
“30 Minutes or Less,” bringing together “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer and star Jesse Eisenberg, takes us on a sputtering ride through Grand Rapids, Mich., where Nick (Eisenberg) mills aways at a dead-end pizza boy delivery job, smoking pot and drinking the rest of the time (and even during). But his mundane existence soon is turned on its head, as two goons, Dwayne (a flinch-inducing Danny McBride, “Pineapple Express”) and Travis (a pedo-stache-sporting Nick Swardson, “Grandma’s Boy”), devise a plan to get rich quick. It happens to involve a stripper, Dwayne’s father (Fred Ward, “Tremors”), a hit man, $1 million and a tanning salon. You can piece those together however you want.
In order to bring these fantasy to life, though, they need a patsy. Enter Nick, who just is in the wrong minimum-wage job at the wrong time. Donning missing-link masks, Dwayne and Travis strap a homemade bomb to Nick’s chest and force him to rob a bank before he can disarm it. It should be mentioned, of course, this is all in the name of entre … entrepri … pre … preneurialship. Or something like that.
And because Clyde can’t be without his Bonnie, Nick pleads for his best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari, “Parks and Recreation), to be his partner-in-crime. After all, who robs a bank solo?
So, as the clock is literally ticking away, Nick and Chet set out on their misbegotten adventure, somehow merging “The Green Hornet” with “The Three Stooges” (as if there weren’t enough stooging in “Hornet”) and leaving you snickering more often than full-on laughing.
The whole thing is a bit frenetic, especially considering how Ansari steals the show with his nervous energy and biting quips. (Can you blame him for being jittery? Being that close to a human explosive will do that to you.) He handles Chet’s distress ably, bouncing between near-hysteria and cool rationale at a rapid-burst pace.
But he’s not the only sidekick who outshines his partner. Swadson’s Travis is unexpectedly endearing, and Michael Peña’s hit-man persona shows that he’s not just the upstanding Latino he normally portrays. (Why is it that tattoos always represent jail time?)
After “Zombieland,” a surprisingly charming genre flick, hopes were high for “30 Minutes.” Eisenberg still is likeable, but he’s no Columbus. And you can forget about any emotional dividends. They’re about as rare as a well thought-out plan here. And there’s the nagging thought that, even with all the jokes, this same situation takes inspiration from a true story that ended badly.
With an a comedic gold mine of actors, an R rating and a brisk 83-minute runtime, “30 Minutes or Less” should have been more than it was. “30 Minutes” is a prime example of simultaneously doing too much and not enough. Oh well. It’s about time to order that pizza, anyways.
Two stars out of five.