Published on September 15th, 2011 | by willok0
Movie Review: 30: Minutes or Less
At the risk of asking a larger question than this review intends to tackle – ask yourself, why (other than the impeccable writing) you are reading this review, or indeed any review? With some confidence this reviewer will offer that you are doing so to figure out the best form bit of cinematic entertainment to spend your cash on. The review will be a part of the fuller selection process which includes and is informed by publicity, trailers, feelings towards the cast and word-of-mouth. The outcome can be to steer well clear, make it your business to get to a screening as soon as possible or in a world where cinema and DVD release times edge closer to each other and people construct sophisticated home entertainment systems, a movie can be relegated to a list of movies to seek out on DVD. With ’30: Minutes or Less’ there is a distinct possibility of it falling into the former category. Its a movie about slackers set in a dowdy looking Michigan, it almost fits the mould of a movie to watch on a sofa day rather than trek out to see. The movie fan though can’t deny the value of the big screen experience and as the rest of this review will testify this could be the movie to knock a mid-week lull on its head and would certainly be worth your time in these weeks before the heavy hitters of award season kick-in.
The story is one of two sets of men, one more benign that the other, and decisions which spur them into action in otherwise uneventful existences. Jesse Eisenberg (‘The Social Network’) is a going-nowhere pizza delivery boy who finds himself inspired by a strap-on bomb to execute a bank heist on behalf of some low-brow criminals. In the midst of this he must also mend a friendship with a sarcastic and more often histronic best friend (Aziz Ansari) and find five minutes for a romantic entanglement (Dilshad Vadsaria).
This launching pad for the story is actually surprisingly substantial with a number of smart turns and while there is always some inevitability to events, there is a steady background charm and foreground humour. This is good as purists do traditionally expect that comedies contain some laughs. Said laughs are mostly what our friends State-side rate ‘R’ and have their basis in what I have christened ‘funny racism’ and plenty of other un-PC mockery that your instincts know are in poor taste but you can’t help laughing out loud (the dark cinema setting would be crucial here for anonymous enjoyment). All the reasons not to like this movie are present and accounted for but the belly laughs will leave you buoyed striking out into the real world after.
We should of course acknowledge that running time is a mere 93 minutes so to have made this length of a movie and not have it maintain pace and quality would be some mighty underachieving. The movie is aided hugely by some good performances. Eisenberg has perfected the milquetoast everyman routine by now and is still in winning form here, though he will need to play a new type of role soon. His interplay with Ansari, and their haphazard attempt to execute a crime is the movies strongest asset; as their day from hell spirals, their plotting and back and forth griping is the most consistent source of comedy. Ansari is in excellent jittery form particularly during the bank heist while Eisenberg plays it straight which is always key to delivering on comedy potential rather than over-acting. By contrast, Danny Mc Bride and Nick Swardson, the scheming duo of juvenile bad guys, rarely produce a laugh that doesn’t feel re-hashed from elsewhere. Their scenes are flat and unengaging and Mc Bride has gotten away with his Emperors outfit now for far too long, he is one-note and a dull one at that. From the outset both sets of men get equal screen time which stalls your investment in events but come the core of the movie, story kicks in solidly and there is plenty to entertain, especially a late appearance by a crazed hitman with an unsettling lisp (Michael Cena).
One minor gripe – the title of the movie only has relevance for about the first 4 minutes!