Opening this weekend on Starz was last year’s “30 Minutes or Less”.
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, and Michael Peña, “30 Minutes or Less” is the story of a pizza deliveryman who is forced to rob a bank after having a bomb strapped to him. As dark a prospect as that is, the movie is a comedy.
So the question before us becomes, does comedy ensue?
Two losers (McBride and Swardson) spend their days blowing things up with homemade explosives. They’re motivated to rob a bank so that one of them has enough money to afford a hit-man so he can have his wealthy father killed. They have pizza delivered and kidnap the deliveryman (Eisenberg), knocking him unconscious and fitting him with a vest rigged with explosives while he’s out. When Eisenberg comes to, they explain to him that he has 10 hours to rob a bank. If he tries to remove the vest, or calls the police, or fails to follow through, they’ll detonate the vest.
Panicked, Eisenberg enlists the help of his friend (Aziz Ansari) – a substitute teacher. Together, they set out to rob the bank, but they prove more than a little ill-equipped. They barely get along, constantly bickering and rehashing interpersonal drama in spite of the severity of the situation. Then they prove inept both at stealing a getaway car and robbing the bank.
All the while, they’re being tailed by McBride and Swardson, and eventually the hit man they hired prematurely (Peña), too.
The primary issue here is that the film simply isn’t funny. The material probably lends itself best to a crime drama, but it’s played way too heavily for laughs. That doesn’t keep them from occasionally trying to play on the suspense of the situation. For the most part though, they try to get a laugh via either McBride and Swardson’s crass loserness, or Eisenberg and Ansari’s flustered ineptitude.
The secondary issue is that it’s in poor taste. Although the filmmakers deny it was the inspiration for the movie, there was a real life incident (prior to the film) which closely mirrors the premise here. The man in that incident was killed when the device exploded (although the police suspect he was involved in the plot). Now, “Four Lions” proved that humor can be mined from even the most politically charged, highly sensitive issues – in that movie’s case, terrorism – if the filmmakers are deft enough. “50/50” does as well. But this film really doesn’t justify itself enough not to feel a little exploitative.
The bottom line is that it’s not a very worthwhile film, unless you’re an enormous fan of McBride, Eisenberg or Ansari.