30 MINUTES OR LESS Review

As said with last weeks "The Change-Up", this has been a summer littered with more R-rated comedies than it has super hero flicks and this weeks "30 Minutes or Less" falls perfectly in the middle of the best and the worst. Some of this resentment may be caused by the fact this was one of the more anticipated comedies of the summer in my book and it just didn't hit those expectations I held for it. With a cast featuring Jesse Eisenberg who, with last years "Social Network" broke out of his Michael Cera stereotype, as well as the on the edge of greatness Aziz Ansari facing off against foul-mouthed Danny McBride and clueless Nick Swardson, not to mention it's all under the direction of the guy who made "Zombieland" how could this not be great? It is a high concept comedy, one that zips by at a breezy 83-minutes but despite its vulgarity and fearlessness to embrace the reality of the situation, it never feels like the movie really goes for it. And when your story is about a man with a bomb strapped to him with the circumstances of being blown to bits unless he robs a bank in a limited amount of time, you can't really just settle with being middle of the road. I expected more from you Ruben Fleischer. Why was this not more stylized? Why does Eisenberg have the same ticks as every other character he plays? These and many other questions ran through my mind as "30 Minutes or Less" rolled on but it all boils down to a question I have seemed to ask a lot this year: why wasn't this better?

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) and Chet (Aziz Ansari)
are forced to rob a bank in "30 Minutes or Less".
It's not the fact that "30 Minutes or Less" isn't fun. It's actually a pretty entertaining little farce it is only the idea of what could have been that makes me long for more from my comedies that are stacked with actors I really enjoy. McBride is back to doing what he does best here as Dwayne, in a role that echoes the one of Rico from "Hot Rod" he is an ignorant yet hilarious southern boy with a mouth dirtier than pig slop. His wordplay here is great and he almost redeems himself for this years debacle that was "Your Highness". As his dimwitted partner who has a knack for building explosives Nick Swardson breaks free of his Sandler-comedy confinement and finally gets to play with the big boys. I have always enjoyed Swardson's persona as well as his stand-up so to see him alongside some of the more broader comedic minds in the game is a real treat even if his role is seriously underdeveloped. He and McBride have good enough chemistry though and their no doubt improvised conversations offer a few bits I'll likely be quoting over the next few days. As for Eisenberg, I like the guy, I really do and I can see him trying here. He really seems to be attempting to escape his geeky mold for a more average guy but he just can't seem to go without giving off those defining mannerisms that creep into every character he plays. As the lead here he is unable to command the film as he did in his Oscar-nominated flick last year (there is a funny little comment aimed at that films subject matter though that made me chuckle) and this time he has no Woody Harrelson to back him up. What he does have though is Mr. Aziz Ansari, and let's just say, the guy is easily the best thing about the movie.

Chango the hitman (Michael Pena) is just trying
to get paid for his desired skills.
Ansari plays a man child trying to define himself as an adult. His Chet has recently been upgraded from substitute to full time teacher and the little glimpses we get into his day to day are the best parts of the movie (too bad we've already seen all of them in the trailers). Ansari gets most of the laugh out loud moments and from beginning to end, no matter how much we appreciate the collaboration of the whole thing, I found myself looking forward to the next scene Ansari would appear in. Without him this film would have failed miserably. He brings real energy to the actual bank heist scene and most of the laughs whenever it is only he and Eisenberg sharing the screen. Ansari is certainly a comic force to be reckoned with and I expect this first step towards a big movie career to be quickly forgotten on his resume once he is able to have more input towards the story and direction of the film. It hurts me to say that because I really did enjoy "Zombieland" a lot but where that debut seemed to include every trick up director Fleischer's sleeve, this follow-up comes off as lazy more than anything. There are a few inspired moments that include Fred Ward as Dwayne's marine core father who won it big on the lottery a few years ago. He is inadvertently the reason for this whole scenario and makes funny use of his brief time on screen. Then we have Michael Pena who seems to enjoy throwing in the random comedic role every now and then. As a hit man he gives a slightly gay air to a thick Mexican accent that induces laughs every time he speaks. It goes without saying that Pena is also underused and that in general, this entire film feels like an underwhelming effort that was rushed together to capitalize on the ever rising popularity of each of its four leads.

Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson)
mastermind all the chaos that take place in
"30 Minutes or Less".
It honestly does kill me to write this review with the content I have placed in it to this point. I really wanted to love this film. It had the talent to do great things and a set-up that seemed ripe for one of the most experimental comedies of the year. Instead, I found myself constantly hoping that it would get better at some point. I enjoyed parts and I won't finish this without saying that in the theater where I saw the film the crowd seemed to respond favorably to the film. Granted it was mostly males in the age range of 18-25 present, but of course that is clearly who this film was made for and if they enjoyed then hey, what else matters? I guess what bothers me about it is the fact there are guys like myself out there who pay attention to actors and directors work and get caught up in a good collaboration when it is made. I feel like I know the true potential this project had and in that way I feel cheated by the fact the people involved in making this movie assumed they could get away with passing something half-hearted like this off as their best effort. Do they not want to go for it all and make the best possible film they can? I probably sound like a huge nerd with that sentiment, but nonetheless it is true and I can't help but be disappointed in "30 Minutes or Less" as its promise was so high and yet its delivery (pun totally intended) was completely half-baked.