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Non-Review Review: 30 Minutes or Less

This movie was seen as part of Movie Fest, the rather wonderful film festival organised by Vincent and everybody else over at movies.ie. It was well worth attending, and I’m already looking forward to next year. Good job all.

It’s kinda strange to watch 30 Minutes or Less. It’s an entertaining enough farce that is carried mainly by its superb primary cast, but it feels strange because the viewer gets the sense that the film might have worked better as a quirky caper film instead of a flat-out comedy. I enjoyed the movie, even if it wasn’t really in the same ballpark as Ruben Fleischer’s early film, Zombieland. I spent most of the movie with a smile on my face, rather than laughing out loud.

Banking on another great comedy...

Of course, my opinion might have something to do with the fact that I was familiar with the true story that inspired the film. I honestly think that the story could have transitioned to screen as a boldly dark comic drama with considerable ease. That’s not diminish the attempt to bring the story to the screen in its current form – in fact, there are elements of a very grim farce about what actually played out in real life.

There’s a wonderfully casual sense about the movie, as if we’re just watching the actors improvise and enjoy themselves s they act out the story of a pizza boy who becomes a human bomb in an attempt to turn him into a world-class bank robber. As fascinating as the premise is (and it’s a wonderfully messed-up story), it’s the interaction between the cast that make the movie work as well as it does. It’s remarkable how Jesse Eisenberg has come into his own after The Social Network, and he proves he still has his comedic chops here. Danny McBride is as effective as ever at playing a dumber-than-he-thinks dirtbag. Michael Peña has a great deal of fun as a tough guy hitman (“momma always said you were a pimp”).

The film lacks drive...

However, the stand-out performances go to Aziz Ansari and Nick Swandson in supporting roles, playing the right-hand men to Eisenberg and McBride respectively. Both actors take roles that probably could have been incredibly dull and readily forgettable, but manage to make them work really well. I’ve notice Ansari around quite a bit, but I hope that this could represent something of a break for the actor, and could possibly help him transition towards a leading role. He definitely has the talent, and feels quite comfortable in his role. Then again, the entire cast actually seems remarkably comfortable.

Perhaps that’s a problem. The movie feels very relaxed. There’s not really a sense of tension, and – unlike the story that “inspired” the film – we know that there’s little actualchance of an unhappy resolution to everything. Fleischer handles the movie well, especially a car chase in the middle of the film, but the whole film seems to be coasting casually rather than kicking into high gear and tearing loose. Even towards the end, as things are supposed to be coming undone, we never truly believe that matters are anymore out of control than they ever where.

Eisenberg is da bomb...

I think that’s part of the reason why the story might have worked better if played just a tiny bit straighter. This is a guy with a bomb strapped to his chest and – despite a nice scene on a rooftop and some solid acting from Eisenberg – we never really buy it. We’re never wondering if he’ll make it, and we’re probably even expecting a convenient resolution for the romantic subplot that has been casually suggested.

That said, there are moments when the film works particularly well. I love the whole bank robbery sequence, if only because Eisenberg and Ansari seem to be having a great deal of fun playing off one another, and also because it’s the one point in the film where the absurdity reaches ridiculous levels. I really wish the film had been able to maintain that tone throughout.

Class act...

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad film. It’s pleasant and enjoyable. As I said above, it’s fun to watch these actors interact, even in a setting as casual as this. It’s just hard not to get the sense that it really couldn’t have been so much more.

2 Responses

  1. This is no comedy classic, but it delivers plenty of laughs, thanks to a witty script and no less than five very hilarious performances. But no better than Zombieland at all. Nice Review Darren!

    • Thanks. Yep. It was grand, nothing too special. Kinda like a “must try harder” grade for all involved.

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