Premise may be important when putting a story on screen, but that doesn't mean it has to also be realistic -- not for comedies, at least. Characters might be similar from flick to flick, but it's the fresh -- and often ridiculous -- situations they are put in that make a funny film. 30 Minutes or Less takes your average college dropout stoner/pizza delivery driver and puts him in the impossible scenario of having a bomb strapped to his chest with 10 hours to rob a bank for a hundred thousand dollars; all for two of the biggest idiots in town. Partner him up with his responsible best friend, bring in a professional hit man, mix in your typical love interest for the main character, and (most importantly) go for the R-rated humour rather than that PG-13 nonsense, and you have yourself a comedy.
Back with his former director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), Jesse Eisenberg branches out a bit from his usual dry, sarcastic wit and gets a little more raunchier with his humour. As good as Eisenberg may be in the lead, you are only as good as your comedic co-pilot, and Aziz Ansari was absolutely hilarious in this movie. Watching Ansari deliver line after line of just pure funniness made me rethink why I haven't gotten into Parks and Recreation yet. The bomb may be strapped to Eisenberg's character, but it's Ansari that steals the show for this one.
The other side of this ridiculous scenario is the still-on-allowance 30-something Dwayne (Danny McBride) and his equally-dimwitted partner in crime Travis (Nick Swardson), the two bomb-making masterminds. I'm still not 100% sold on if McBride is funny enough to carry or support a big chunk of a picture yet, as he always seems to try and steal the spotlight. Don't get me wrong, the dude is funny, but Swardson's quiet-but-awkward buddy sidekick routine turned out to be the funnier of the two knuckleheads. Then there was a crazy-ripped 68-year-old Fred Ward who shows up for all of five minutes in the movie as Dwayne's hardass father. Kind of a random choice, but Ward is no stranger to comedy. After all, he did do Tremors & Tremors 2.
But it's Michael Pena's performance as the ghetto assassin, Chango, that I really got a kick out of. For those unfamiliar with Pena's earlier roles, he was pretty much cast in small roles as the stereotypical Hispanic thug in random TV series or in films. Pena has since shown his chops as an actor by doing some great dramatic feature work, far from those generic roles that got him into the business. What I found entertaining was Pena's take on Chango, as he threw every single stereotype there is for his character and really played it over the top. Out of the whole cast, Pena looked like he had the most fun with his character.
From the way 30 Minutes or Less is being marketed, it probably puts some unneeded pressure on itself to be as funny or funnier than director Fleischer's last film, Zombieland. Though 30 Minutes or Less is a solid summer comedy flick, seeing every TV preview and online trailer with the tag lines saying "From the director of Zombieland" gives it that 'M. Night effect' for the film where comparisons are later made. The film is good, but for its demo audience, Zombieland is still a modern day classic in their eyes. The main problem with 30 Minutes or Less is with it being only a mere 83 minutes long, it somehow runs out of steam way too quick near the end. The payoff in the end may be mediocre and pretty obvious, but the countdown journey between Eisenberg and the hysterical Ansari riding shotgun is worth the ride.
Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.