Did Jessie Eisenberg lose a bet?
30 Minutes or Less isn’t an awful film, mind you. An ‘80s-style caper comedy with a penchant for sailor talk, it’s passable if you’re in the mood for such an animal. But don’t forget, Eisenberg was up for an Oscar mere months ago. Love it or hate it, you’ve gotta admit that 30 Minutes or Less isn’t just a step down from where this guy has been, it’s like he tumbled down a whole flight of stairs, landing on his head at the bottom.
However, the dude’s presence is good news for the film, ‘cause he’s great in it — miscast, maybe, but great nonetheless.
Eisenberg plays Nick, a 20-something slacker who delivers pizzas in sleepy Grand Rapids, Mich. His ho-hum existence gets a good jolt when he’s kidnapped by two bumbling schemers (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), stuffed into a bomb vest and ordered to come up with $100,000 or they’ll blow him to pieces.
Terrified, Nick turns to his best friend, elementary school teacher Chet (Aziz Ansari), and asks him to assist in robbing a bank so he can hand off the loot. Meantime, McBride, wanting the cash so he can hire a hitman to kill his rich bully father (Fred Ward) and collect his inheritance, doesn’t take into account the many ways such a plan could backfire, because … well, because he’s an idiot.
I probably don’t need to tell you, 30 Minutes or Less is one of those exercises that dangles a few sub-plots and has them all colliding on the home stretch in one big chaotic kablam. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and writer Michael Diliberti rub enough polish on this thing that they’ll try to fool you that it’s a slick, much more intelligent vehicle than what appears. Well, don’t buy it. The brains involved in assembling 30 Minutes or Less could fit into a Kinder egg.
What it does have going for it is a real bounce in its step. A good burst of energy at every turn masks a lot of the film’s shortcomings — case in point, I rarely enjoy McBride’s arrogant slob (he plays the same character in every movie he’s ever been in), but here, buckled into Fleischer’s lightning pace and goofy environment, the guy’s so stupid, it works. Come to think of it, so is the film.
Out of a possible five stars, I’ll give 30 Minutes or Less a two and a half. The feature is currently playing the Pen-Mar Cinema Centre in Penticton.
Jason Armstrong is a movie reviewer living in the Okanagan.