A Lighter Take on “The Hurt Locker:” 30 MINUTES OR LESS
Movie Review by Kelly Laymon
30 MINUTES OR LESS, which opened this past Friday, is about a pizza delivery guy who is kidnapped, rigged with a bomb, and forced to rob a bank . If this premise sounds familiar, it should . This film has a LAW & ORDER (1990-2010) “ripped from the headlines” (cue the da-dum sound effect) quality going for it . Something quite similar really did happen in Erie, Pennsylvania in 2003. And that dude got blown up.
In this humorous version, THE SOCIAL NETWORK’s (2010) Jesse Eisenberg is the unfortunate pizza boy, Nick . Unlike Michael Cera, Eisenberg has managed to grow up a bit beyond the awkward teenager roles from THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (2005) and ADVENTURELAND (2009) . And I wish I didn’t have to keep reminding myself that Eisenberg was not KICK-ASS (2010) . But really, why is Michael Cera STILL playing awkward teenagers? I’m tired of it! If I have to see him stammer his way through his lines in one more movie, I’ll lose it.
Eisenberg’s two captors are Danny McBride and Nick Swardson . I do not watch McBride’s critically acclaimed EASTBOUND & DOWN (currently airing on HBO), so maybe that’s why he hasn’t impressed me . As far as large co-starring roles, he was in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (2008), which I wasn’t fond of, and I completely skipped YOUR HIGHNESS (2011), because it looked awful . In the case of TROPIC THUNDER (2008), Robert Downey Jr. eclipsed the rest of the cast and rendered everyone else forgettable . Swardson’s had roles in a bunch of Happy Madison Productions (Adam Sandler’s production company), but I know him more for his role as Terry, the male prostitute from RENO 911 (2003-2009) .
Rounding out the cast is Aziz Ansari, as Eisenberg’s buddy, Chet . I run hot and cold on Ansari . His Randy from FUNNY PEOPLE (2009) was annoying, yet was also a spot-on take on crappy comedians . I finally warmed up to PARKS AND RECREATION (currently airing on NBC), though I’m not sure I’ve warmed up to his wannabe P. Diddy character, Tom Haverford.
The film starts by setting up the two duos: the speed driver for the pizza company (Eisenberg) and his school teacher pal (Ansari), and the two dumb kidnappers (McBride and Swardson) . McBride’s character wants $100,000 to hire a hit man to kill his father, a rigid Marine (Fred Ward) who won the lottery, and earn his inheritance . All of the characters are slackers of one sort or another . Since Ansari is a school teacher, he’s the only one with a real job and something resembling responsibilities . McBride and Swardson spend large portions of their day shooting watermelons with a crossbow and then blowing them up with C4.
Eisenberg makes a pizza delivery to a location beyond the town junkyard, is drugged, and wakes up to find two guys in monkey masks explaining to him that he is rigged with a bomb that will be set off if he doesn’t rob a bank for them within the next nine hours.
And, of course, Eisenberg turns to his buddy Ansari for advice and help . THIS is the real highlight of the film and the reason to see it: the simple throwaway lines between these two are the funniest parts of the movie . Their banter sounds like what two normal friends would say if they were forced to rob a bank and had no clue how to do it . I hope the DVD has deleted scenes from their shopping trip to pick up supplies . That scene in the film ended with the clerk referring to their purchases as “a rape kit” . Yeah, some of the humor walks the line of decency, but is damn funny . It feels real, not like the writer was trying too hard to be edgy.
The subplot about McBride wanting the money for a hit man seemed unnecessary . And a subplot about Eisenberg’s relationship with Ansari’s twin sister felt like it was added in for the sole purpose of creating tension between the two friends and then to have her around to be a pawn in the climax . My complaint about a lot of comedies is that they try to work in too many conflicts and subplots to the point where things feel forced . It didn’t feel forced here, just a little unnecessary . I’m not sure if comedies do it to try to seem smarter and add depth or because some book about screenwriting had a chapter about motives .
I’ll give it three and a half knives because it was definitely one of the funnier adult comedies in recent memory.
© Copyright 2011 by Kelly Laymon
Kelly Laymon gives 30 MINUTES OR LESS – 3 and a half knives!