30 Minutes or Less opens Friday everywhere (see times below)
Though inspired by a horrific real incident where a pizza delivery guy was killed while robbing a bank with a bomb he claimed had been forcibly strapped to his chest, 30 Minutes or Less might be one of the funniest films of the summer, and certainly one of the only R-rated comedies to inspire genuine belly laughs. Filled with profane punch lines (one of the tamer lines is “You had a Lunchables for dinner last night!”), it meanders midway through but makes up for it with absurdist energy.
Ruben Fleischer, who directs the film at a fast clip, joins forces again with Jesse Eisenberg, who starred in Zombieland, Fleischer’s last film. Eisenberg, who also gets to do a subtle shout-out to his role in The Social Network, plays Nick, an aimless pizza delivery guy in Grand Rapids, Mich., for one of the only restaurants still advertising the delivery-time guarantee of the title. This puts him on the radar of Dwayne (Danny McBride, doing the swaggering idiot he does best), who needs a patsy for an overly elaborate scheme to get his dad’s money in order to open a tanning salon/ prostitution ring.
One call later, and Dwayne and his guileless crony Travis (comedian Nick Swardson) have strapped a bomb to Nick, who has 10 hours to rob a bank with his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari from TV’s Parks and Recreation), with whom he’s just had a fight over his long-ago deflowering of Chet’s sister (Dilshad Vadsaria). Adding to the confusion is a self-proclaimed “Satanic Hispanic” hitman, played by Michael Peña in the full-on crazy he exhibited in Observe and Report and on McBride’s HBO show, Eastbound & Down.
The plot could go in any number of directions, but Fleischer and screenwriter Michael Diliberti (who co-wrote the story with Matthew Sullivan) opt for the path of most absurdity, with both protagonists and antagonists portrayed as equally idiotic. The result feels like a faster-paced Pineapple Express, which also co-starred McBride, applying the inspired comic riffings of the leads to what would otherwise be a very dark story. It’s hard to take a tale of a man forced into criminal acts seriously when his tormentors are busy discussing the logistics of such prostitution code terms as a “Tanny Glover.”
One can question the taste of making a comedy out of a tragedy, but the breezy energy of 30 Minutes or Less doesn’t give you time to think about it, and there’s something refreshing about an action story where characters’ dunderheaded, illogical actions are constantly called out. There’s not much point to it, but like a pizza, it’s just meant to be enjoyed without much thought or effort. Be sure to stick through the end credits for an extra bit of plot resolution.