This film won't be coming out until August or September, but I was able to score a free critic's screening ticket, so I got to see it just recently. 30 Minutes or Less is, in some ways, a follow-up to the much beloved feature Zombieland, as it reunites the producers and actor Jesse Eisenberg. Unfortunately, the fact that it is advertised as such is to this movies' disadvantage. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Minutes is a slacker comedy in the vein of Cyrus or Greenberg, just without all the middle age existential crises. Eisenberg's Nick is a pizza delivery boy, and all around failure in life. All of his friends (admittedly, he only has two) are doing much better than he is, and although he's clever (the kids and the case of O'Doul's incident), but he never lived up to expectations because of his parents' divorce, and his own fucked up decisions in life. He's permanently stuck in that nebulous period between the end of school and the beginning of real life. He's more than a little depressed. The depression parade continues with Dwayne and Travis, also underachievers. Dwayne has a rich and mean father--played by a scene stealing Fred Ward--and hatches a murder plot to kill his dad to get his money. They kidnap Nick and strap a bomb to him and tell him to rob a bank or they'll blow him up. While Nick attempts to think up a plan, he also goes around trying to live his day as if it's his last--because it probably is--and he tries to come to terms with the life that he's led--that it's been a waste.
The fact that this movie has a plot, let alone a multi-faceted plot while also engaging in some character development is a testament to writers Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan. The problem is that a lot of us went into the film expecting for it to somehow be Zombieland 2. And it's not. It's a similar, but a different kind of comedy. If you go in expecting a classic like Zombieland, you'll be severely letdown, but if you go into the movie with the hope of laughing, you'll be pleasantly surprised for the most part.
The problem with reviewing a comedy--you'll notice I rarely have--is that comedy is broad and everyone has a pretty specific kind of humor. The awkward yet childish humor that worked well for the most part (at least in my view) may not click with everyone who saw it. That might be because when you strip away the comedy, the key plot points are actually kinda sad: a father and son relationship that is so unfulfilled and loveless that one want the other dead, a pair of friendships based on control and deceit, and essentially a group of people who have failed to make anything of themselves--except for the Major who happened to get lucky and his the lotto. Minutes is really a funny movie about unfunny people, and sometimes it shows. When Nick and Chet reveal all the awful things they've done to each other, where Nick realizes he's essentially fucked up his entire life, and where Nick and Chet realize they are friends because no other people would have them are all played for laughs--and granted, parts of those scenes are funny. At the same time, however, it's also depressing. These aren't good people.
You're probably wondering at this point whether or not to see this movie, because it sounds like I'm crapping all over it. But it really is a fun movie. As I said, these aren't good people, and maybe that's why it feels fresh and it's mostly funny. The bad guys in comedy movies usually get the best lines anyway. Since nobody in this film is a decent person (other than Kate, mind you) we do have a bunch of characters with good lines.
My only real complaint in Minutes is the lack of screentime for Fred Ward, and the acting job of Danny McBride. Like a lot of actors, he seems to be playing the same role over and over again. If you see him here, or in Your Highness or Eastbound & Down, he's the exact same character. It's not a bad or unfunny character, but there is still such a thing as beating a dead horse.
30 Minutes or Less isn't a classic, but it's worth catching as a torrent or a rental.
30 Minutes or Less: 3 out of 5.
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