Review: 30 Minutes Or Less

PLOT: Dwayne (Danny McBride) is a thirtysomething slacker, itching to get his hands on inheritance money from his wealthy father (Fred Ward). He hires a hitman, Chongo (Michael Pena) to do away with his Dad, but doesn’t have the $100,000 needed for the contract. To that end, he and his best buddy, Travis (Nick Swardson), an explosives expert, kidnap a pizza delivery boy, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), and outfit him with an explosive vest set to go off if he doesn’t rob a bank and get them their money. Having no choice but to do as they say, Nick enlists the help of his friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) in order to knock-off the bank and get the vest deactivated.

REVIEW: Man, do I ever hate it when a film I’m looking forward to ends up being a dud, especially when it’s packed with so much talent. 30 MINUTES OR LESS really should have been a fun flick. It’s from the director of ZOMBIELAND, Ruben Fleisher (making a quick stop-over before taking a stab at the A-list with GANGSTER SQUAD), stars Jesse Eisenberg, one of my favorite up and comers (brilliant in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, THE SQUID & THE WHALE, and hilarious in ZOMBIELAND & ADVENTURELAND), and the great Aziz Ansari, who rocks NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” each and every week. This should have been awesome.

Sadly, it’s not. It’s sad watching 30 MINUTES OR LESS knowing that the same director brought us ZOMBIELAND, as this lacks all the flair behind the camera, and energy that made that film so effective. Eisenberg and Ansari can’t really be faulted here, as whatever laughs 30 MINUTES OR LESS offers comes from them, particularly their early pre-bomb scenes, where the two argue over the knowledge that Nick deflowered Chet’s hot twin sister (the very likable Dilshad Vadsaria), while watching DIE HARD. Michael Pena also nails his part as the low-rent hitman, although he seems to be playing the same (funny) role he played in the underrated OBSERVE & REPORT.

The film goes awry once McBride and Swardson enter the plot, and alas, they’re my big problem with the flick. I like McBride a lot, but other than a gem of a role in PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, & FOOT FIST WAY, he hasn’t really been well-served by films. That’s not for any lack of talent, as a quick look as EASTBOUND & DOWN proves the guy’s funny as hell, but sadly, things just haven’t clicked for him on the big screen yet. His annoying, douchebaggy character in 30 MINUTES OR LESS is no exception. He probably would have been fine in it had it been a supporting role, but for some reason he’s made the co-lead with Eisenberg, which is a mistake as a little of this kind of character goes a long way.

As for Swardson, he’s funny as McBride’s good-natured (if half-crazed) partner in crime, but again, they try to wring too many laughs out of a guy that should have been used sparingly. Considering the 80-minute running time, the time should have been spent on Eisenberg and Ansari, but instead they come off as supporting characters in their own movie!

The only time 30 MINUTES OR LESS really comes to life is during the big car chase set piece, which happens about forty minutes in. It’s here that the guy who directed ZOMBIELAND really makes his talent show, although, I think it was a mistake to have Glenn Frey’s ‘The Heat Is On” in this scene, as that happens to be the theme song to one of the greatest action-comedies of all-time (BEVERLY HILLS COP yo!), and once it started pumping, I was thinking to myself, “damn, I need to pop that DVD in when I get home”, rather than enjoying the film for what it is.

The absolute worst thing about the movie is the ending, or complete lack of one, as it ends with almost no resolution, an a bunch of hanging plot threads that at best, are sloppy, and at worst, insulting to the audience’s intelligence.

It’s really too bad 30 MINUTES OR LESS turned out to be a dud, as there was a lot of potential there, and at times it comes frustratingly close to being a good film. Too bad, although I have faith that we’ll be seeing a lot better from all involved before long. Call this an honest misfire.

Review: 30 Minutes Or Less




About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.