30 Minutes or Less Movie Review

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in 30 Minutes or Less
Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in '30 Minutes or Less' - © Columbia Pictures
Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion

The first lie about 30 Minutes or Less is that it’s actually 83 minutes. It’s still short by feature film standards (and thankfully so) but even with so little time to fill, the “experience” lasted far too long.

Director Ruben Fleischer helmed the immensely entertaining Zombieland and in it, was able to channel Jesse Eisenberg’s slightly neurotic but altogether milk toast personality into a character that worked. Something definitely went astray here though as Eisenberg’s usual annoying and flat delivery simply was the wrong energy to match up again Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson and Michael Peña (and 75% of them were working well below their best as well).

The story is a simple one: McBride hates his father and wants what’s left of his lottery winnings. So he hires Michael Peña to kill him (via an opportunistic stripper played by Bianca Kajlich). There’s one catch: his fee is $100,000. Together with his best/only friend/lackey (Swardson), McBride coerces Eisenberg into robbing a bank to get the money by strapping a bomb vest to his chest. For moral and logistical support, Eisenberg taps on his best/only friend/lackey (Ansari) to get the job done and hijinks are supposed to ensue.

The basic A to B setup of the plot helps to keep the runtime down, and that’s great. However, what character development there is doesn’t do anything to change our pre-expectations of the actors themselves … they might as well have used their real names for all the good that calling their efforts “acting” managed to do. There are some funny bits to be shared around, but Peña is the lone standout, actually playing someone other than himself and eliciting 90% of the laughs.

It’s even questionable whether one would benefit seeing this in an altered state of mind, as so many of McBride’s comedies tend to suggest. The bottom line is that 30 Minutes or Less would have made a great Internet comedy skit but fails under the weight of needing to stretch things out to questionable feature length. Fleischer undid most of the goodwill he earned via Zombieland and hopefully, this throwaway effort is just a slight hiccup to his work moving forward.


30 Minutes or Less hits theaters on August 12, 2011 and is rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, nudity and some violence.

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