30 Minutes or Less is that rare film that exceeds your expectations by a mile. Clocking in at an ultra-lean eighty-eight minutes, the film is wild and unexpected. Jessie Eisenberg stars as Nick, a stoner pizza delivery man and classic underachiever. His life takes a turn for the terrifying when he is kidnapped by two sociopathic hillbillies (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). They strap a bomb to his chest with a deadly mission, rob a bank in nine hours or you'll be blown to bits. Why? Drumroll please...they need the money to open a brothel, disguised as a tanning salon. Nick runs to the only person he's ever been able to depend on, his best friend since childhood, Chet (Aziz Ansari); a wisecracking elementary school teacher.
First and foremost, this movie is hysterically funny. The jokes are very sharp. Scriptwriters Michael Dilliberti and Matthew Sullivan are out to offend everyone with their dialogue. Couple that with the vaunted improvisation skills of the comedian cast and you have conversational gold. The actors skewer every race, creed, and color with relish. But it's done in such a natural way, you firmly believe these characters would behave this offensively. It's easy to make fun, with a wink or nod. Not here, these lines are slaps in the face and work marvelously with the story's quick pace.
Director Ruben Fleischer is someone I have to start paying attention too. Known for his TV work, Fleischer's first feature was the awesome Zombieland, also starring Jesse Eisenberg. He seems to have a talent for pacing and directing ensemble comedy. Each character in his films play a crucial part, no matter how small, memorably. In 30 Minutes or Less, Micheal Pena and Fred Warde have supporting roles, but they are so damn funny and interesting; they resonate with the audience. And there's no fluff. I cannot imagine how he could have cut this film any further. 30 Minutes or Less moves like a breeze. You're laughing from start to finish and it ends on a perfect note. There's really nothing else they could have done without adding drag. I love when a filmmaker knows when to stop. This is a sign of a greatness, so I'm keenly looking forward to Fleischer's next film.
This story is inspired by a real life incident several years ago. 30 Minutes or Less has been getting some heat for running with this idea, but that's hogwash. Creative license can be taken from anything. Just because this movie is a comedy, doesn't mean there was any intention to hurt the victims of the actual crime. It's ridiculous to even have to address this, but the point is worth making. Art imitates life and we are the better for it.
It's important to note that the plot for 30 Minutes or Less is sound. It isn't a stupid movie. The normal day taks a twisted, surreal turn, and is handled deftly by two average guys. Clever, quick-witted comedies are few and far between. Fleischer and his superb cast can be very proud of their film. It more than delivers, but in ninety minutes or less. A must see!