I really enjoyed Ruben Fleischer's 30 MINUTES OR LESS, although I had some minor character issues with it. No matter how hard Jesse Eisenberg tries, he still comes off as way too smart to play a doofus like his character in this movie. But Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, and especially Aziz Ansari bring much of the funny to the film. I also liked how stripped down the movie was in comparison to ZOMBIELAND - this is a small story, with small people, and it's not out to change the world of comedy or anything - it's fairly intimate for a heist comedy. For some odd reason that I can't put my finger on, it reminded me of SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT although it has nothing in common with that movie.
Jen Dracowyrn is a BNATer - one of the first, actually - and saw 30 MINUTES OR LESS at a screening last week, and here's what he had to say about it:
AROUND 90 MINUTES
I love to see a silly premise for a movie done by smart people. The Marx brothers and the Monty Python group were experts at it and I am always at least satisfied with a glimmer of it in any comedies that I see. Take something so ridiculous and out of the ordinary and build a story around it, but the catch is, you gotta sell it to the whole audience.
What would you do, if you found yourself in a situation where you were kidnapped in the line of duty of a job you hate, had a bomb vest strapped to your torso and told to do something that could get you killed in the process anyway and the clock was ticking? What if you were the person who perpetrated the crime? If you used freedom as the motivation to get the job done, would you be true to your word when and if it was completed?
In 30 Minutes or Less, this crime is inflicted upon Nick the pizza delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg) by Dwayne (Danny McBride) and his cohort Travis (Nick Swardson) in a plan to get a lot of money for a plan that will net the fledgling criminals a lot more money. Having seen a few films, it seems that it is always easier to interject comedy into an action film than it is to seamlessly add action to a comedy. A buddy cop movie where the two drop one liners after a major scene carries over better than a comedy based on two cops. Say, Lethal Weapon vs. Cop Out.
SPOILER ALERT: The opening scene of Eisenberg’s character driving like a cut scene of To Live and Die in L.A. in a ragged out 5.0, rockin’ out, while coolly enjoying a joint and trying to locate his drop off for the pizza is just one example of how the action actually works in this movie. Revealing the bomb to his best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari) in a school crowded with children, or robbing a bank and someone gets shot or even the vest exploding (yes, it does) could all be enough to derail the mood of the movie, but it remains a comedy throughout. The last movie that I had seen that could keep its comedic integrity while still having kick ass action was probably Hot Fuzz. Even Pineapple Express couldn’t keep its flow when the heavier scenes came in.
Though they may be fresh talent by movie industry standards, all of the main actors are veterans and it shows. Jesse Eisenberg sells it when it comes to the situation he’s been put in and Aziz Ansari convinces that he doesn’t want to be involved in any of it, but knows that it is the only real choice left to him. Side note: Ansari is a personal hero of mine for his 2010 MTV awards Avatar song where he expresses his appreciation for BP’s part for destroying the earth. Danny McBride should just be called Danny McBride in any future roles because that’s all he plays, but no one does it better and Nick Swardson’s sidekick character, Travis, is more fully fleshed out than would be normal for this type of role. Kudos to Fred Ward who plays The Major, Dwayne’s ex-marine, hard assed father and to Michael Pena who plays a hired hitman by the name of Chango. Both of these actors have done comedy in the past, but are more known for their dramatic roles. Dilshad Vadsaria plays Katie which is Nick’s love interest and Chet’s twin sister, which plays well into the script. I was almost surprised not to see Seth Rogen, Ken Jeong or Jonah Hill.
If there are any complaints with 30 Minutes or Less, the minor one would be that the title, though important to the set up of the film, is really an anachronism. Nick never gets the pizza delivered on time, even when the drop off point is within walking distance of Vitto’s pizzeria. The only money to be made on that time limit would be if ordered by stoners that would forget to look at the clock for the 30 minute mark unless they ordered the pizza at 3:50. The other complaint is a little heavier, but was one that temporarily took away from my enjoyment of the movie.
At one Butt-Numb-A-Thon, Harry had shown Wonder Bar, an old B&W film starring Al Jolson. The audience laughed out of embarrassment at how African Americans were portrayed in the film. A black man dies and goes to a heaven that he can bring along his faithful dog, pick pork chops from a tree and other such madness that was acceptable entertainment to some people of that time. Even Busby Berkeley’s music numbers couldn’t drag this film out of the muck for me.
I was glad to see that director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and writer Michael Diliberti could put together a comedy that didn’t have to resort to the most base of humor, but that being said, I’m tired of seeing any race being stereotyped for a punchline. Having a person of that race or ethnicity spout the racist lines doesn’t make it ok. Comparing a laser pointed at someone’s forehead to a Bindi or calling a Latino a beaner is not observational humor and is not necessary when non-whites are acting in a film.
With that out of the way, I really liked this film and hope Ben Stiller (one of the producers) gets even richer off of it. The soundtrack had some older stuff in it, including some Beastie Boys and Dwayne’s Raining Blood by Slayer on his cell ringtone matched up to the character’s profiles. The posters for the film state that it is not yet rated, but an “R” is the only way to go for this film, just watch the green and red card trailers for it. They are almost identical, but the adult language and drug references really pack the comedic punch. I look forward to The Gangster Squad and any other films Ruben Fleischer wants to throw our direction.
Thanks and keep talking about movies. Peace.
Thanks, Jen. 30 MINUTES OR LESS opens everywhere tomorrow.