30 Minutes or Less (2011)

I’m Holding the Bomb

When I noticed this very day that today’s movie was available at a RedBox near me, I decided I needed to see it. Not because I expected it to be good, but because it was a movie and I watch those. I had heard vaguely good things about this comedy, but mostly from people whose opinions I do not value when it comes to the quality of movies. So going into this movie, I had no strong opinions either way. Let’s see if I was right! This movie is 30 Minutes or Less, written by Michael Diliberti, directed by Ruben Fleischer, and starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Fred Ward, Bianca Kajlich, Michael Pena, and Dilshad Vadsaria.

Because I went into this movie with this knowledge, I’m going to share it with you because it may have skewed my opinion of the movie itself. A very similar incident to what happened in this movie actually happened in real life, with less comedy and more actual person dying. A pizza delivery guy named Brian Wells actually had an explosive device strapped to him and he was made to rob a bank in 2003. The police captured him, but the bomb went off and killed him before the bomb squad could arrive. Also, everyone involved in this movie (from what I’ve read) acted like they had no knowledge of this incident before the movie and it was just coincidence that a pizza delivery guy has an explosive device strapped to him and he was made to rob a bank in their movie. Personally, I find myself a bit skeptical that they had no knowledge of it. I grant that I didn’t know about that incident myself, but I also didn’t write a movie that was exactly like it. Let’s see how a guy’s death becomes a comedy in this movie though.

Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza delivery guy. He and friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari) get into a big fight one day because Nick slept with Chet’s twin sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria). Elsewhere in the same town, two guys are shooting at watermelons with a crossbow. One of them, Travis (Nick Swardson), straps mini-bombs to the watermelons for added amusement. I’m sure his internet-taught abilities to make bombs will never come up again. The other guy, Dwayne (Danny McBride), is fed up with living with his domineering, rich father who is called Major (Fred Ward). To forget their sorrows, Travis and Dwayne go to a strip club to see them some titties. Dwayne confides his story to one of the strippers, Juicy (Bianca Kajlich), who convinces Dwayne to give her $100,000 dollars to hire an assassin to kill his dad. Their big plan to get the money (which probably came from some news story, or maybe people around the world are actually getting this idea around the same time) is to get a pizza delivery boy, strap a bomb to him, and get him to rob a bank. Nick is their unlucky victim. Nick recruits Chet to help him and the two attempt to get the money in time to save Nick’s life.

I’ve made it fairly clear that I am extremely dubious that the filmmakers were completely unaware of the Brian Wells situation. What I haven’t made clear is that I would totally accept a comedy based on an unfortunate situation if it were funny enough. The biggest problem with this movie is that it’s not funny. In some situations in this movie, I wasn’t even sure what was supposed to be funny. Jesse Eisenberg makes a Facebook comment that I assume was intended to be funny at one point, but I didn’t press the “like” button on that one. The rest of them I saw were trying to be funny, they just weren’t. The next paragraph will give you my thoughts on why most of the comedy was lost on me, but for the most part, I blame the writers. I assume there was some improv to be had in this movie, but I would say the majority of the failed comedy would be the fault of the writers. A lot of things in this movie just didn’t make sense on a story level either. This would be easily forgiven were the movie funny. There were perhaps plot holes in Hot Tub Time Machine, but you don’t see a comedy for it’s story, you see it for it’s comedy. Since I wasn’t wasting my time laughing in this movie, I paid more attention to the story. First, it’s not a funny situation. Perhaps the fact that this kind of thing happened in real life made the situation too real, but it’s a situation better suited for a drama or an action movie. I don’t see the humor in life threatening situations. Or, perhaps I just didn’t see it in this movie. Jesse and Aziz spend a lot of time fucking around before they go to rob the bank, especially for a guy wearing a bomb and a guy sitting next to a guy wearing a bomb. They go shopping, go get food, go see Jesse’s girlfriend, and Jesse tells off his boss before they decide to work on getting the bomb off by robbing the bank. Then it takes them all of 5 minutes to knock that part out and escape the cops before going back to fucking around. Aziz also feels pretty comfortable making jokes about his friend who MAY be having a bit of a bad day. Another thing that bothered me is that these guys robbed the bank with plastic guns. They get the REAL gun away from the security guard at the bank, and later encounter yet another real gun, but neither of them ever think that they might be able to make use of a real gun and never pick these guns up. One of the big problems of the movie was the amount of money everyone was after. I’m not rich by a long shot, but $100,000 is not THAT much. You DID rob a bank, guys. You could’ve gotten away with more than that. The biggest problem with this movie BY FAR is that Michael Pena’s character makes a joke about the Konami code, calling it the Contra code, and reciting it as something like Up, Down, Up, Down, Select, Start. That’s bullshit, guys! The Konami code is Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start! You completely lost me at that point in the movie. And also when you didn’t do anything funny.

If I were to put this movie’s cast in order of comedic value in the movie, it would read as: Nick Swardson, Michael Pena, the end. But let’s go in order. Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t do anything comical that I can recall in this movie, but I was impressed to see that – once he got the bomb on – his performance was pretty great. He acted like Jesse Eisenberg for the first part of the movie, but when the bomb got on, he was frantic and scared. Danny McBride is really starting to bum me out. This will sound familiar to you if you’ve read all of my reviews, but “Danny McBride plays the same character Danny McBride always plays”. I need to copy that and paste it into future McBride movies. Again, this didn’t used to be a bad thing, but the last time he was funny in a movie was Tropic Thunder. I hope he can get into better movies in the future, otherwise he’s going to lose all appeal for me. I love Nick Swardson. Nick Swardson is a very strange case because he’s a hilarious guy who is usually only in awful movies, but he’s usually the funniest part. I haven’t seen Bucky Larson yet, so his ratio is still pretty good. He’s probably the funniest character in this movie, but even he doesn’t get me to laugh here. Another strange thing about the people in this movie is that people find Aziz Ansari funny. I’m not saying they’re wrong, I’m just saying that I disagree. I find Aziz to be aggressively unfunny. I’ve seen him in a couple movies, I’ve seen him in a TV show, I’ve just never seen him do something funny. Michael Pena was a strange character. He looked like a classic gangbanger, but had a really quirky quality to him that I found vaguely amusing. Just not enough to be funny with the words coming out of his mouth. On a positive note, Dilshad Vadsaria is hot.

I had heard good things about this movie, but it failed to deliver in my opinion. That being the case, I cannot personally recommend you see this movie, but I can say you can find it on RedBox so you can watch it on the cheap and form your own opinions. To me, this movie had a story not suited for comedy, which worked out for it because it also wasn’t funny. So, 30 Minutes or Less gets “Sometimes fate pulls out its big ol’ cock and slaps you right in the face” out of “Fucking victory tacos”.

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