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30 Minutes or Less - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
30 Minutes or Less
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

30 Minutes or Less bears a striking resemblance to an actual case from 2003 of a bank robber who had a bomb rigged to his neck -- and ended up exploding. Don't worry (and spoiler alert!), the characters here don't meet the same fate. What's more, the filmmakers claim they only had a vague sense of the real events when they decided to make this movie and there is otherwise no connection. Still, the similarities are so strong, between what's a somewhat clumsily light-hearted comedy and a truly tragic real-life event, that it does have the potential to leave a bad taste in one's mouth.

You'll just have to, you know, push that aside and have a good time. I mean, if you can.

I could -- sort of. When you consider a concept like this, it's best not to think too much about the implications of making light of such matters. I made a valiant effort.

At first, we see two divergent, seemingly unconnected story threads. The opening scene is an attention-getter: Nick (Jesse Eisenberg as the anti-Mark Zuckerberg: "I don't check [Facebook]. I'm off the grid!") is racing between rural towns to deliver pizza in the promised thirty minutes or less. We get an immediate sense of Nick's reckless driving skills. And it's a good thing the scene commands attention, because it comes up again later! Nick is also best friends with Chet (Aziz Ansari, sporadically pretty funny), but we start off seeing them have a falling-out. Reasons are given but they don't really matter; all you really have to do is count down the minutes until they inevitably make up.

But then there's Dwayne (an arguably typecast yet perfectly cast Danny McBride) and his dimwit friend Travis (Nick Swardson), who eventually come up with their "genius" plan to speed up the process of Dwayne getting his inheritance from his lottery winning father: he's going to hire a hit man! But he needs a horde of money to pay him! The solution? Kidnap a total stranger, strap a bomb to him, and make him rob a bank for them.

So here, as you may have guessed, the paths of these four characters cross. It should come as no surprise that things go wrong, and ostensibly, hilarity ensues. Well, okay, some funny things happen. But they are also funny things sprinkled within uncomfortably serious circumstances, where lives are really supposed to be at stake. It's a tall order to milk laughs from, say, a forced bank robbery -- with actual loaded guns that could, you know, really kill people. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) doesn't always succeed. But then, amazingly, sometimes he does.

This awkward line that 30 Minutes or Less straddles might work better with scenes that make clear how much relief can be gotten from humor in terrible situations. The trouble is that Fleischer takes a terrible situation and never really treats it as terrible as it is -- or as it would be. It's like he's trying to make a screwball comedy out of a deadly hostage scenario. It's a little . . . odd.

That said, the players certainly take the material they've been given and commit to it. Even the villains here are weirdly likable. Special mention goes to Michael Peña as the hit man caught up in Dwayne and Travis's witless plan -- he gets one of the movie's biggest laughs. And, mercifully, it's one of the few laughs that comes guilt-free, where you don't feel like you're laughing at the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. After all, this movie actually contains a larger body count than most comedies, and it features villains that we're clearly supposed to regard as maybe idiots but deep down ultimately nice people. It's emotionally confusing.

So, when it comes to straightforward Hollywood audience manipulation, 30 Minutes or Less doesn't know its ass from its elbow. But here's the trick: do as I did, and go in expecting nothing more than the trailer promised, and the movie delivers. It may be a bit of a misguided mess, but at the end of the day it's still a fun one. I got some pretty good laughs out of it, anyway.

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari take a few wrong turns delivering &apos;30 Minutes or Less&apos;.</a>

Overall: B
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