Nasty, Brutish and Short 30 Minutes or Less
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- Updated May 07, 2013
DVD Release Date: November 29, 2011
Theatrical Release Date: August 12, 2011
Rating: R (for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence)
Genre: Comedy, Crime/Gangster
Run Time: 83 min.
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Dilshad Vadsaria, Michael Pena, Fred Ward, Bianca Kajlich
30 Minutes or Less clocks in at a lean 83 minutes, but for viewers looking for admirable characters it’s a long sit. The film is a nonstop assault on the ears, featuring stupid criminals and a protagonist who needs personal and professional direction. The movie moves fast and has a few laughs, but not nearly enough to overcome the generally distasteful characters and proceedings.
The film’s “hero” is Nick (Jesse Eisenberg, Rio), a pizza deliveryman who won’t let speed limits or traffic laws keep him from getting each order to his customers in 30 minutes or less. When not working, he hangs out with his good friend Chet (Aziz Ansari, Get Him to the Greek), a substitute teacher. Nick has feelings for Chet’s sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria), despite the complications it creates in his friendship with Chet.
Those problems are magnified when Nick is targeted by bumbling, crude villains Dwayne and Travis (Danny McBride, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Nick Swardson, Just Go with It), who fancy themselves criminal masterminds. Dwayne’s father (Fred Ward, Management) sees them as layabouts who need to be steered toward legitimate work, but the pathetic duo fancy themselves entrepreneurs of a different kind. They want Dwayne’s inheritance early, so, with encouragement from a friendly stripper, he concocts a plan to hasten his dad’s demise. How? By strapping a bomb to someone’s chest, making that person rob a bank, then using the money to pay a hitman (Michael Pena, The Lincoln Lawyer) to take out Dwayne’s dad.
That “someone” turns out to be Nick. Dwayne and Travis knock Nick out, outfit him with a bomb, and tell Nick he has 10 hours to carry out the bank robbery and deliver the spoils. If not, Dwayne and Travis will detonate the bomb. The dire situation forces Nick to confess past mistakes to Kate and Chet, exacerbating tensions with Chet at the very moment he desperately needs his friend’s help.
30 Minutes or Less gets by, to a point, on its propulsive story, but it never finds the warmth it needs to offset the offensive characters and content it foists upon the audience. The film has some funny moments, but the outrageous humor hits its limit quickly, leaving a story of strained friendships and stunted romance that feels halfhearted. (The real-life story that the film’s plot resembles didn’t have a happy ending, and audience members who know that may feel a bit queasy seeing the situation played for laughs here.)
Eisenberg, coming off his best role yet in The Social Network, doesn’t have many shades to his 30 Minutes role. Most of the action happens around him, leaving him to play the straight man alongside the manic humor of Ansari, who steals the film, and McBride’s bravado. Swardson’s performance is overwhelmed by McBride’s bluster, while Vadasaria isn’t given much of a role. Pena, in the role of the hitman, and Ward fare better, but their roles are small.
Director Ruben Fleischer worked with Eisenberg on the much funnier Zombieland, which dealt with issues of family life and stability beneath its outrageous zombies-on-the-loose storyline. (One keeps hoping Bill Murray might show up here, as he did in Zombieland, to great effect.) The best 30 Minutes or Less can do is have Nick share his feelings with Kate in a scene that passes too quickly. Then it’s back to guns, flame throwers and the threat that Nick will be blown to bits any second.
There’s nothing wrong with fast-moving comedies that make you realize their failings only after you’ve left the theater—not as long as you enjoy the film while you’re watching it. 30 Minutes or Less fails that test. You know it’s not quite working while you’re watching it, and you find yourself wondering why well before the credits roll. 30 Minutes or Less is, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, nasty, brutish and short. Why spend your time watching it?
- Language/Profanity: Lord’s name taken in vain; constant “f”-words and a variety of other foul language; middle finger extended; “pimp”; derogatory references to Indians; description of a pornography tape.
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Drinking and smoking.
- Sex/Nudity: Scenes in a strip club; bare breasts; stripper puts a client’s hands on her breasts; reference to a variety of sex acts; thrusting and other sexual gestures; discussion of and mockery of homosexuality; a man stares at a woman’s rear end; kissing; numerical reference to a sexual position.
- Violence/Crime:Reckless driving; Nick is chloroformed and wakes up with a bomb strapped to his chest; suspicion from a sales clerk that men are purchasing ingredients for a “rape kit”; a bank robbery; car theft; a gun hits a wall and fires a bullet into a man’s leg; a flame gun; a car explosion; characters are struck in the face; men dream of running a prostitution ring; reference to an abortion clinic; a hitman brandishes a weapon; later, he’s shot with a pen gun.
- Marriage: Nick’s mom is said to have had an affair with a lifeguard, leading to the divorce of Nick’s parents.
Religion: A character refers to himself as a “satanic Hispanic.”
Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.