Duration: 83 mins
When setting out to make an action-comedy cum heist movie, it's perhaps pinnacle to the film's credibility that the director hires a lead that can handle the role and, if need be, carry the film during the slower parts. Essential is our protagonist's ability to sustain audience's attention, whilst exuding a likable confidence in keeping with such fast-paced, comedic debauchery.
Unfortunately for director, Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland), and his lead Jesse Eisenberg, things here feel flat within the time period of the title. It begins with Nick (Eisenberg), going about his mundane job as a pizza delivery boy who earns just enough to get by, providing he delivers the goods within the price promise time of under 30 minutes. And it's fine as far as that goes; Eisenberg plays the timid loser well, as the opening scenes succeed in generating some laughs. Meanwhile two lay-about, deadbeats, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), are plotting to off the former's millionaire father to claim inheritance. They hatch a plan to force someone to rob a bank so they can pay hitman, Chango (Michael Peña), to carry out said hit, thus leaving them with their fortune. Naturally these two stories intertwine as they target Nick, strap a bomb to him and force him to steal 100 grand or he'll go kaboom.
However, it's here that cracks begin to show. Eisenberg seems incapable of holding his own as a lead man, especially in a role that requires him to deviate from his typical persona. And it's a shame too, as he has proven his worth with notable performances in both Adventureland and The Social Network, but the character here really doesn't work for him.
Once we are introduced to best friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), it's obvious the pair don't have any chemistry or natural comedic ability as Ansari often shouts his way through most scenes with copious amounts of swearing and shocked tone in his voice, which neither convinces nor entertains. Combine this with Eisenberg's lack of leading man credentials, we have to rely on the ever-present McBride and to his credit he does provide a majority of the laughs with dim-witted sidekick, Travis.
McBride is, at times, hilarious as he plays the arrogant, foul-mouthed role reminiscent of Kenny Powers in East Bound & Down with ease. Without his character and comedic prowess, the film would hit rock bottom for sure. The story climaxes within the first half of the short 83 minute duration and from then on drags as the predictable becomes laborious and more stupid as it heads towards an unlikely end.
Once we hit the half-way point peak, it's difficult to see where the story can go and it would appear the writer has similar issues too, as it feels hastily thrown together, with a daft outcome that offers little in terms of redeeming features or clarity for the characters and audiences alike. The problem is that we're just not invited to care about any of the cast involved as the lacklustre writing and, at times, directing isn't executed well. To add insult to injury, the title of the film isn't relevant past the opening set up and feels gimmicky, which makes you question writer, Michael Diliberti, and the disappointing effort from Fleischer, who so promisingly gave us the wonderfully sharp and witty, Zombieland.
30 Minutes or Less has an interesting premise to it, but due to a half-arsed script and not-so-funny jokes, can leave you feeling short changed. The first half entertains, but sets itself up too early on, as the second half falls flat and becomes a strain. The flaws and sloppiness are all too visible, as is the cast's inability to gel, but McBride heads up the rescue mission as he steals the film with his one liners and angry-comedy. Unfortunately he cannot do enough to lift this from the title of mediocrity it most certainly merits.