12 August 2011

30 Minutes or Less

Aziz Ansari, left, and Jesse Eisenberg are shown in a scene from "30 Minutes or Less."
The principals of "30 Minutes or Less" all appear to be acting in different movies.

Jesse Eisenberg, as Nick, the pizza delivery guy who's kidnapped and ends up with a bomb strapped to his chest and orders to rob a bank, plays it straight and sincere. He's suitably terrified and desperate both to save himself and prevent harm from coming to those close to him.

Aziz Ansari, as Nick's best friend, Chet, a substitute elementary school teacher, employs the loose, riffing style of a Judd Apatow movie. It works for him, and he gets most of the movie's laughs.

Then there are Danny McBride and Nick Swardson doing what they do—whatever that is (it certainly isn't comedy).

McBride is Dwayne, a foul-mouthed lout, and Swardson is Dwayne's friend, Travis, who's only character trait is that he has some aptitude with explosives.

McBride and Swardson play their roles with an obnoxious sense of entitlement. Someone got it into these guys' heads that they're funny, and they strut across the screen as if it's comedy gold whenever they open their mouths. Swardson has so little to do that he barely registers, but McBride continues to be one of the most aggressively unfunny performers I've ever seen.

Dwayne's father (Fred Ward), a retired Marine, hit it big in the lottery a few years back, and Dwayne, fearing he will blow through the entire $10 million in winnings and leave him without an inheritance, concocts a scheme to murder the old man. His dream is to use the money to open a tanning salon, which really will be just a front for a prostitution ring.

Laughing yet?

Didn't think so.

The problem is, Dwayne and Travis don't want to do the deed themselves, and they don't have the cash to pay a hitman. So, using Travis's only useful skill, they kidnap Nick, load him up with a bomb set to blow in 10 hours and force him to rob a bank to get them the $100,000 they need. Nick goes to Chet for help, but there's tension there because Nick just told Chet he slept with his twin sister (Dilshad Vadsaria) several years ago and very much would like to do so again.

We've also learned Chet is partly responsible for Nick's parents' divorce and, in effect, ruining Nick's childhood.

Any of this tickling your funny bone?

With a script that fails miserably as it searches for laughs and actors who seem like they didn't meet until he called "action," director Ruben Fleischer is completely lost—a surprising development considering how well he blended horror, action and comedy in his debut feature, "Zombieland" (2009).

The movie unfurls without rhythm, momentum or visual flair, but at a furious pace. Maybe that's Fleischer showing mercy to the audience.

True mercy would have been making the movie's running time live up to its title.

Greg's Grade: D+

(Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence. 83 minutes.)

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