Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just The Right Mix Of Humor And Violence: Why 30 Minutes Or Less!

The Good: Funny. Decent character development, Action is entertainment.
The Bad: The acting is nothing to write home about.
The Basics: 30 Minutes Or Less is a very simple premise that works because it is funny and has enough action to be engaging.

The last few years, there have been a number of disturbing trends in cinema. The first, for me, has been the combination of graphic nudity and sex and explicit gore/violence. I don't see the point in getting turned on only to get so repulsed to the extent that one might want their genitals to just shrivel up. The other disturbing trend is the mix of humor and violence. I don't mind the concept of mixing humor and violence, but so often the movies I have seen, like Observe And Report and Pineapple Express (reviewed here!) are far more disturbing in their violence than they are funny. So, with the concept of 30 Minutes Or Less was one that had limited appeal for me. I mostly went to the preview screening because I enjoyed Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network (reviewed here!) and director Ruben Fleischer impressed me with Zombieland (reviewed here!).

30 Minutes Or Less worked, though. It was funny and there was enough action and suspense to balance it well. The balance was enough to make me care about the characters, even though the acting was nothing extraordinary. Still, it had some decent lines and it was enjoyable to see Jesse Eisenberg yet again. He plays Nick and Nick is a nice change from prior characters I have seen him play. But the film is far from flawless and while it goes quickly, after preview screening, I realized that because the premise was so simple, there was actually remarkably little to write about the movie.

Nick speeds around Grand Rapids, Michigan working for Vito's Pizza. Their motto is "30 minutes or less" and when he fails to make a run, he swindles the kids who scammed him out of their money with the promise of beer. Nick sees those in his life moving on, his best friend Chet has become a teacher at the elementary school and Chet's twin sister Kate has just gotten a job at the Four Seasons in Atlanta. Dwayne and Travis are lowlifes who have no real ambitions, Dwayne living with his millionaire ex-Marine father. One day at the strip club, Dwayne tells Juicy that he wants his father's last million and Juicy tells him that he has a way to kill the Major, but it will cost him $100,000. Innovating, Dwayne decides to "think like a millionaire" and he and Travis have Nick deliver a pizza to them at the scrapyard.

Nick awakens with a bomb strapped to him and the directions to rob a bank for the hundred thousand dollars Dwayne wants for his "tanning salon." Despite the serious falling out that Nick and Chet had the day before, Nick goes to Chet's school and begs him to help him. Chet and Nick realize that the vest will not come off without Nick losing his arms, at the very least. So, they prepare to rob the bank, as Dwayne works to line-up the killer needed to put the Major down.

One of the serious problems with 30 Minutes Or Less is that the plot is predictable. When Nick has the chance to tell off his boss, he runs to tell Kate good-bye. When the heist takes a turn for the violent and Nick messes up the money transfer with the killer, that decision to visit Kate comes back to bite him in the ass. The thing is, this move was telegraphed when Travis follows Nick during the rendezvous.

Moreover, the acting is nothing to write home about. Aziz Ansari is amusing as Chet. Ansari's entire routine as the sidekick seems to be raising the pitch of his voice and bugging out his eyes. It works, but the longer the movie goes on, the less impressive the performance seems. And while Jesse Eisenberg embodies - well - a character unlike any he has ever played, Danny McBride is well within his safe zone from his performance in Pineapple Express (which is the only other movie I have seen him in), as is Nick Swardson as Travis. The acting is mediocre at best for the bulk of the movie.

That said, 30 Minutes Or Less is funny and it is entertaining enough to recommend. There is a cute Facebook reference that allows Jesse Eisenberg to deliver one of the movie's best tongue-in-cheek lines. And the introduction of Chet is punctuated with the memorable line, "The alcohol should wash the taste of you out of your mouth." Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan craft a script which is actually very funny and has some wonderful lines.

But the movie also has some decent action moments or moments atypical to a comedy. For example, after the car chase, Chet has a piece of the car embedded in his back. As Nick has to pull the shrapnel out, I sat and considered that I had never seen a moment like that in a comedy or action film. Sure, war films and doctor shows, but not an action comedy. And it worked.

30 Minutes Or Less is an entertaining film and one of the funniest moments is after the credits. But it's definitely a movie worth only one viewing.

For other works featuring Michael Pena, please check out my reviews of:
Battle Los Angeles
Everything Must Go
Million Dollar Baby
Homicide: Life On The Street - Season 6


For other movie reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject.

© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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