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August 14, 2011


Movie Review – 30 Minutes or Less (2011)


The custom in my movie group, when we go out for coffee or a meal after a movie, is to go around the table and have everyone say one thing they liked and one thing they didn’t like about it. The reaction to 30 Minutes or Less was pretty uniform. Some were a little more forgiving than others, but overall we called out the same points.

What we liked:

The cast. Jesse Eisenberg plays a pizza delivery guy named Nick and Aziz Ansari plays Nick’s higher-achieving but kind of a jerk BFF since childhood Chet. (Nick is in love with Chet’s sister Kate, a throwaway part played by the remarkably beautiful Dilshad Vadsaria.) Danny McBride and Nick Swardson play somewhat older, somewhat stupider, somewhat more amoral BFFs since childhood Dwayne and Travis. Dwayne needs money to hire a hitman (played by Michael Pena) to kill his rich and understandably exasperated dad (played by Fred Ward) so the pair strap a bomb to Nick’s chest and tell him to rob a bank in the next nine hours or else.

We all thought this was a workable premise for an action comedy. Twentysomething slacker buddies who have just had a huge fight and then have to work together to rob a bank under penalty of one of them being blown up is a scenario with comic potential, and the characters’ sustained freak-outs play to Eisenberg and Ansari’s strengths as comic actors. We also liked the compare and contrast story approach, with the film switching back and forth between the misadventures of the two pairs of friends.

However, it was the cast that was far and away the best thing about the movie. There were quite a few times when the actors made us laugh.

What we didn’t like:

I’m sure if they ever read this review, screenwriter Michael Diliberti (in his writing debut) and director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) would be happy to learn that it’s still possible to offend the mainstream movie audience. The dialogue is a steady stream of crude sexual references punctuated by profanity. Several of us retain the capacity to be offended.

We all agreed it was a bore. They’re kidding themselves if they still think this kind of language in a Hollywood comedy is shocking or transgressive. It’s predictable and formulaic, a tired crutch for filmmakers who are too lazy, too uninspired, or plain too uncaring to build laughs from character development, story development, or visual inventiveness.

While we’ve become accustomed to Hollywood not caring anymore about telling good stories that make sense, that doesn’t mean we like it. For example, the title is a reference to Nick’s “30 minutes or its free” pizza delivery job. The movie opens with an extended driving sequence showing Nick breaking traffic laws left and right and generally driving like a menace to society to beat the 30 minute clock. The title, that character introduction, and the “nine hours ’til it explodes” plot all raised the legitimate expectation that Nick’s driving skills and knowledge of the local streets would figure in some meaningful way in the comedy, the action, or ideally, both. They don’t.

1 star


The idea of writing “See my review of The Change-Up” flitted through my mind….

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Aug 14 2011

    So the car chase towards the end of the film is superflusous?

    Now, I didn’t know that this film is based on an actual incident (far off from what the film’s plot is) and when I originally watched the trailer I thought that characters were talking and cracking jokes when they were supposed to be saving thei own lives. I didn’t find the premise to be funny and I didn’t find the trailer to be funny either. And now that I know that it’s based on a real incident in which the delivery man actually died, I have zero interest in seeing this film.

    Good review, though! It’s nice that you’ve included your film club. :O)

  2. Aug 14 2011

    There’s a short getaway chase in the middle after they rob the bank but it goes nowhere, in every sense of that expression. And that’s it.

    I didn’t know about the true crime inspiration until someone brought it up in post-movie conversation. It’s easy to see why the publicity machine is downplaying the connection since, as you say, it’s a strong disincentive to seeing the movie.

  3. Aug 15 2011

    Funny thing is that when mentioning that it’s based on a true story, some say that it’s why they thought that it’d be hilarious and others, basically 50/50, say that it’s not funyn at all. I didn’t think that the trailer showed anything funny in it so that was incentive enough to let you watch and review the film for us all. :OÞ

  4. Aug 15 2011

    This is no comedy classic, but it delivers plenty of laughs, thanks to a witty script and no less than five very hilarious performances. Good Review Helen!

  5. Aug 15 2011

    If Ward is your fifth actor, then I’m with you on the performances.

  6. Richard Winters
    Aug 19 2011

    I just watched this movie and again, Helen, your review is right on target. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  7. james jameson
    Nov 7 2011

    ur movie club is probably a fun way for a group of people with similar-ish tastes to discuss their take on a movie & while im sure theres plenty that agree, i have to be a voice of discension in a few regards. first i agree about the characters absolutely. but to sit with a group of people with similar (ish) tastes and start goin on about how hollywood tries to offend & shake it up by adding expleteives that are meaningless and offended ur groups sensibilites & because of that implying hollywood doesnt know who they’re targeting or what they’re doing & that its a crutch of ANY kind in ANY way makes it clear that while this movie’s premise had the potential to amuse you all, u would’ve liked a slightly diff PG-13 version better. i for one consider myself an intelligent 31 yr old guy, mainstream tastes in a lot of hollywood things, & this movie was f*in funny. if the DIDNT curse all the time it would’ve LOST credibility to the target audience & i for one GET THAT & WOULDNT HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY. the interplay between the 2 groups of friends WAS awesome & any dumbed down version where ANY PERSON is watching their mouth whether its HE GUY WITH A BOMB ON HIS CHEST (i would be cursing like a madman) or the 2 bumbling but laughable bad guys (who to picture their characters & suspend disbelief in a movie like this BETTER be cursing every other word or it will feel unnnatural. theres a reason behind everything. ur specific tastes were offended. gotcha. it happens. always will. but its definitely not a crutch or anything like that its more like the kind of thing that maybe makes it uncomfortable to watch with our mothers, etc (me included, but of course) but this is one of those movies that if mainstream rejects & critics arent over the moon about, it will be that sleeper cult hit on dvd & blu-rays with groups of friends everywhere quoting it to each other all the time…. just not many people who dont like it will know about that.