30 Minutes or Less wants to be both a comedy and an action film, but it isn't funny enough to be a good comedy and it isn't exciting enough to be a good action film. This is disappointing, because director Ruben Fleischer proved with Zombieland that he is capable of making a hilarious film which also delivers plenty of thrills. 30 Minutes or Less has its moments and it boasts a very fine cast, but it never really comes together in spite of an intriguing premise.
30 Minutes or Less
Program Length: 83 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p
Languages: English, French DTS-HD 5.1 MA, English Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio Description Track
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
30 Minutes or Less wants to be both a comedy and an action film, but it isn't funny enough to be a good comedy and it isn't exciting enough to be a good action film. This is disappointing, because director Ruben Fleischer proved with Zombieland that he is capable of making a hilarious film which also delivers plenty of thrills. 30 Minutes or Less has its moments and it boasts a very able cast, but it never really comes together in spite of an intriguing premise.
Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young man in Grand Rapids, Michigan who is trapped in a dead-end job as a pizza delivery man. The pizzeria promises delivery in a half hour or less (or the order is free), hence the title. In fact, the film's opening scene, which has Nick racing through stop signs and red lights in an effort to deliver a pizza on time, is one of the most energized parts of the film. Nick's best (and apparently only) friend is Chet (Aziz Ansari), a schoolteacher. Nick has a platonic relationship with Chet's twin sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria), but Nick clearly is hurt when he learns that Kate will be leaving town soon for a job in Atlanta.
In the meantime, we are introduced to two slackers, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson). Dwayne is the dominant half of the pair, and Travis is a nerd who is a wizard with explosives. Neither man has a job, and they amuse themselves by blowing up watermelons. Dwayne hates his father (Fred Ward), an ex-Marine Major, and in turn his father has nothing but contempt for Dwayne. However, Dwayne's father is a millionaire as the result of winning the lottery, so Dwayne is marking time until he inherits everything. The problem is that it does not appear that the old man is about to die anytime soon. One night, while Dwayne is getting a lap dance at a strip club, he tells the woman, Juicy (Bianca Kajlich), about his predicament. She informs him that she knows someone who can put a hit on the Major. The catch is that it will cost Dwayne $100,000.
Dwayne and Travis "brainstorm" the situation, trying to figure out how to raise the money. They conclude that the only way to get that much money at once is to rob a bank, but they aren't prepared to do it themselves. They see a television commercial for the pizza place where Nick works, and they hatch a plan to kidnap a delivery man and force him to rob the bank for them. They come up with the idea of putting the delivery man into a bomb-laden vest which will be automatically detonated if he fails to complete the job by the end of the da. This scenario obviously was inspired by the real-life case of Brian Douglas Wells, a pizza delivery man in Erie, Pennsylvania who in 2003 robbed a bank with an explosive device fastened to his neck.
The comedy, such as it is, is derived primarily from the sometimes contentious friendship of Nick and Chet. Nick's friend is appalled when he learns that Nick has a past with Chet's sister. Nick's interest in rekindling his relationship with Kate is an important plot device, but the relationship is so poorly developed that we never sense any real chemistry between the two. Dwayne and Travis are fitfully amusing as the plotters, but they are so stupid and unpleasant that it is nearly impossible to warm up to them. 30 Minutes or Less makes the mistake of presuming that sophomoric raunch is always funny. Does anyone over the age of 16 laugh when Dwayne says that he uses the number 69 because it is his favorite sex position?
30 Minutes or Less also falls short as an action film because there is a paucity of surprises. The film does include an excellent chase scene after the bank robbery, but by and large the story follows a predictable arc and the plot has a number of gaps in logic. The actors do their best, with Eisenberg and McBride being the standouts. Ultimately, however, the characters never manage to resonate to the point where we really care about what happens to them.
This is a typically excellent Blu-ray transfer from Sony. The 2.40:1 image appears to be properly framed. The picture is highly detailed with accurate colors and no evidence of excessive digital manipulation. Black levels are solid and shadow detail is very good. Exterior scenes were shot on location in Grand Rapids, which helps to give the film a very appealing look. An appropriate level of film grain has been retained to give this Blu-ray presentation a satisfying, film-like appearance.
The lossless DTS-HD 5.1 MA is excellent in most respects. The dialogue is clear and understandable, and there are a few scenes, including the climactic showdown, which provide some reach punch. The only complaint is that the music is sometimes cranked up to a level which I found to be jarring.
The single Blu-ray disc offers a nice array of extras.
An interesting feature is a Blu-ray exclusive picture-in-picture commentary track featuring director Ruben Fleischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson. Instead of just listening to the commentators, they can be viewed in a picture-in-picture window while they discuss the film. You may need to adjust the settings on your Blu-ray player to activate the audio on this feature. The picture-in-picture aspect grows tiresome quickly, unless you are excited about the prospect of watching five guys wearing headphones while sitting at a table.
Ten deleted scenes, including an alternate ending, are available and will be enjoyed by anyone who likes the film. I actually found myself preferring the alternate ending to the one which made the final cut.
Three outtakes include an extended one which is actually quite amusing. In it Chet explains to Nick that there are much worse ways of dying than being blown up.
A 14-minute featurette entitled "Blowing Up with the Cast & Crew of 30 Minutes of Less" gives the director and the principal cast members an opportunity to talk about their experiences while making the film. An 11-minute featurette, "The Perfect Crime: Action and Comedy in 30 Minutes or Less," another Blu-ray exclusive, focuses on how the film tries to meld intense action scenes with comedy. Director Fleischer mentions that he considers the bank robbery scene to be the most important part of the film.
Sony also has included trailers for Colombiana, Attack the Block, Straw Dogs (the remake), A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, and Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star.
BD-Live features are being activated on the release date.
The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.
The Final Analysis
30 Minutes of Less is a disappointment for me, an uneasy blend of comedy and action which is neither uproariously funny nor consistently exciting. However, critics seem to have been split down the middle on this one, and comedy is a very personal matter, so anyone who is on the fence is encouraged to rent it first and see how it appeals to you.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Release Date: November 29, 2011