Hollywood is no stranger to ripping headlines from newspapers and repurposing them for production. It is a practice that goes back to the Silent Era. 30 Minutes or Less flipped a tragic story from many years ago and gave it a comedic spin. This raises ethical issues, but with ethics aside, the film falls flat and fails to impress. Littered with obnoxious behavior, the film never takes enough chances to set itself a part from the hih-concept blockbusters of the season.
Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a pizza delivery guy who never seems to deliver his orders on time. Katie (Dilshad Vadsaria), Nick’s friend in which he has some romantic interest in, has explained to Nick that she is leaving for Atlanta. Nick pleads with his best friend and Katie’s twin, Chet (Aziz Ansari) to convince her to stay; a conversation that ends up taking a nose dive. Meanwhile, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and his sidekick Travis (Nick Swardson) realize that by assassinating Dwanye’s father, they can acquire his millions. The two decide to plant a bomb on an unsuspecting victim and force them to steal $100,000 in order to purchase the services of an assassin. Dwayne and Travis happen to choose Nick.
The story is based off very similar event that ended in tragedy, a story expertly reported on in Wired a few months ago. This film certainly considers the ethics of basing this comedic story off such a tragic event. Of course the film deviates highly from the tragic event, but the basis is far too close for comfort. Supposedly, the cast and filmmakers had no awareness of the real events prior to being a part of the film (source). What were their thoughts after hearing about the event and the correlation to the film? Real events are the foundations for many of Hollywood’s famous films, but in this case, there is a rather funky smell that lurks.
Despite the ethical issues, the premise and cast had promise. Yet the only character that seems to not exhibit their typecast would be Swardson. McBride returns to his raunchy, racist nihilism that he has portrayed in films such as Your Highness and mostly famously in the HBO series Eastbound and Down. Ansari might as well be Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation, a role that seems to be diminishing as he rises to the top of the American film industry’s payroll. Eisenberg was celebrated in The Social Network for shedding his awkward demeanor in his previous films, but now he may have a problem shedding Mark Zuckerberg. His delivery of dialogue is much too quick to be sincere or even believable.
Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer had landed a critical and financial hit with a memorable cameo. However, there is nothing memorable for 30 Minutes or Less, aside from a handful of smirks, mostly from scatological humor. Despite how close the film is to a real life event, the filmmakers did miss an opportunity to truly reveal the disgust of characters such as Dwayne and Travis and the relationship to the tragic event. There was a hint toward an ultimate betrayal between the two that never appeared again, but the issues in their friendship rivaled that of Nick and Chet. After a revealing argument where both Nick and Chet had explained that they had ruined each other’s lives, the next day they can make up and kiss to rob a bank? I do not buy it, neither should you.