It’s gotta be one hell of a time following up a debut that comes with such high acclaim. Just to name a couple, Quentin Tarantino managed to pull it off with Pulp Fiction and Edgar Wright managed to do it with Hot Fuzz. Now we can add Ruben Fleischer to the list. Although, while it’s far from what some may have been hoping would turn out to be Zombieland 2, so to speak, 30 Minutes or Less has more than its own brand of hijinks up its sleeve.
Being a first time screenwriter is also something Michael Diliberti has in common with the likes of Tarantino and Fleischer. Loosely basing the story (co-credited to Matthew Sullivan) on an Erie, PA bank robbery where that unfortunate pizza delivery guy met his explosive end, Diliberti has come up with one of the most hilarious screenplays in years. How much of the script remains onscreen is quite a question however as all of the key cast members are known all too well for their improv skills while the camera rolls. But between Diliberti and Fleischer’s directing skills, along with the cast, they’ve all managed to bring the funniest film this year has seen next to Bridesmaids.
Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) works for Vito’s Pizza in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a delivery boy living every day like it’s 30 Minutes or Less. He hates his job and seems to have a love/hate relationship with his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari). Nick also happens to be in love with Chet’s twin sister Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria) who has just informed him that not only has a classmate recently come out of the closet, but she’s moving to Atlanta for work. Meanwhile, our bumbling antagonists, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), are living the life of privileged man-children thanks to Dwayne’s father, The Major (Fred Ward), after he won $10 million playing the lottery.
Dwayne complains about how much he hates The Major and brags about being the heir to at least $1 million to a local stripper named Juicy (Bianca Kajlich). Juicy instantly sees her own opportunity in Dwayne and tells him she knows someone, Chango (Michael Peña), who can take care of his father for just $100,000. Dwayne jumps at the idea instantly as the money from his inheritance would be just what he needs to start a tanning salon as a front for a prostitution ring. Talk about delusions of grandeur. Now Dwayne and Travis hatch a scheme and strap a bomb to Nick’s chest during a routine delivery, giving him ten hours to come up with the cash. Nick enlists Chet to help him rob a bank where hilarity, double crossing, “rape kits,” and laser pens soon collide.
To give any more away would be criminal as the verbal sparring, visual gags and hilarious choices in musical cues fly fast and furious. Just as Fleischer did with Zombieland, he knows that the key to a successful comedy is to hit the ground running. And at a scant 83 minutes you couldn’t ask for a tighter run time. Most surprisingly too, the characters here are more fleshed out than most two hour dramas and Eisenberg shows us once again that he’s not just a one-note actor. And those with a keen sense for movie references will just find even more to love about 30 Minutes or Less, one of the year’s funnier films.
Photos courtesy Columbia Pictures