The latest entry in this summer’s seemingly never-ending series of raunchy R-rated comedies, 30 Minutes or Less chronicles the oh so many mishaps that occur when a pizza delivery man (Jesse Eisenberg) and his estranged best friend (Aziz Ansari) are roped into performing a bank robbery for two dunces looking to get rich quick (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson). While there are indeed a lot of laughs to be mined from this impossible (though not necessarily improbable) scenario, the manic pace makes for the summer’s most frantic and frenetic film, comedy or otherwise — for better and worse.
Dwayne (McBride) and Travis (Swardson) are two of the most idiotic and lazy men on the planet, though they at least spend their time attempting to muster the brain power to contemplate what might be the best get-rich-quick scheme available to them. They’re relieved to have someone else do the thinking for them when they’re onvinced by a stripper to off “The Major” (Fred Ward, who really should be in every movie), Dwayne’s Lotto-winning, ex-military father, and live off the inheritance. The stripper can get them an experienced hit man, but the price tag is $100,000 — and to raise the money, these two non-geniuses come up with quite the (relatively) ingenious plan.
Nick (Eisenberg), a good-natured but decidedly going-nowhere slacker, has become quite the skilled speed demon whilst under the employ of a pizzeria that offers a money-back guarantee if your order isn’t delivered in (see title of the film) — which makes him the seemingly perfect candidate to pull off a bank robbery. So Dwayne and Travis strap a bomb to his chest and give him ten hours to go criminal — and lured into this mess is Nick’s pal, Chet (Aziz Ansari), a schoolteacher fuming about his recent discovery of Nick deflowering his twin sister several years back.
It seems like a lot of plot for this sort of thing, but once the pieces are in place, it’s a nonstop barrage of gags as an already doomed situation goes from bad to almost supernaturally worse. The title of the film seems to be a dare unto itself — 30 Minutes is in constant competition with its own story, determined to get to the finish line fast and hard (and funny). In some ways, the film has a similar philosophy to the comedy of Airplane! — if you didn’t like one joke, hang on a few seconds, another one is on its way. And repeat.
While this approach makes for a very enjoyable romp, there are moments that reveal a much darker film lurking underneath the hardy-har surface. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) has said that he once envisioned 30 Minutes or Less to be more along the lines of Fargo, a much more sinister crime comedy — indeed, there are some dangerous and rather unnerving moments in the film (particularly during the actual bank robbery) that, somewhat unfortunately, are ultimately undone by the constant getting in and out of each scenario as quickly as possible and consistent defaulting to the broadest and raunchiest laugh possible. 30 Minutes or Less is a funny film, yes — but it also could’ve been a much smarter one.
But why mull over what could’ve been when there are so many delightful madcap mad-dash antics going on? You’re in and out in 83 minutes, and you might even laugh out loud that many times. Despite somewhat wasting its potential (like its own protagonist), 30 Minutes or Less delivers on time, piping hot and deserving of a tip.