“30 Minutes or Less” is the wish-fulfillment fantasy that generations of slacker pizza delivery guys have been waiting for. The rest of the world may look down on the stoners who deliver their pies, but Jesse Eisenberg is here to prove that the lowly pizza guy has the catlike reflexes, driving skills and ease under pressure to handle the most stressful of situations (like, say, getting kidnapped by two chubby dudes with an explosion fetish who force him to rob a bank).
All in a day’s work for your noble pizza dude, who makes up for his lack of career/life ambition with a wealth of MacGyver-like survival skills. If parents catch on to the film’s moral—which appears to be that you can turn a lazy college grad’s life around by strapping a bomb to his chest—America might have more to worry about than the debt ceiling.
But for now, 30 Minutes or Less is a harmless, funny little coming of age story that fits neatly into its 83-minute run time. And while it may be hard to believe the guy who played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network as a slacker delivery guy, once you suspend your disbelief about that (and his willingness to turn to a life of crime), things start moving pretty smoothly.
When the movie opens, Nick gets into a fight with his only friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), over the fact that he slept with Chet’s twin sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria). After they brawl and end their friendship, it becomes clear that Nick is in love with Kate and unable to tell her. Nothing a little bank robbery can’t solve! Luckily for Nick, he is about to cross paths with the equally undermotivated Dwayne (Danny McBride), who is disgruntled that his military veteran father, the Major (Fred Ward), has won millions of dollars in the lottery and resents him for being a video game-obsessed layabout. The Major refuses to give any of his winnings to Dwayne and, until he kicks the bucket, Dwayne is forced to go through life as a penniless miscreant. In the meantime, Dwayne bides his time waiting for his dad to croak by blowing up watermelons with his pal Travis (Nick Swardson). But when he tells a stripper during a lap dance that he will be a millionaire after his dad dies, she quickly comes up with a plot to kill the Major and make them both rich. (Kids—this is why your mom wants you to stay out of strip clubs!)
Trouble is, it’s going to cost $100,000 to get the Major killed, so Dwayne and Travis devise a plan to get a certain unsuspecting delivery guy to do their dirty work for them. They call for a pizza, fit Nick with an explosive vest and give him 10 hours to return with cash from their local bank.
Some men might show trepidation in executing this plan of grand larceny, but not our hero! He enlists the help of his friend Chet and gets to bank robbing. Along the way Nick repairs their friendship, gets the girl and generally learns to love life again.
30 Minutes or Less manages to do all this with plenty of humor and a few good car chase scenes (the whole thing was filmed in Michigan and is a bit of a love song to the American-made automobile). The emotional investment between the male leads is sometimes lacking (and the relationship drama between Mr. Eisenberg and Ms. Vadsaria is more of an afterthought than a crux to the plot), but all the men on screen seem more than comfortable in their roles. They should be, as they’ve all played them before.
Director Ruben Fleischer also did Zombieland, that other hero nerd adventure story Mr. Eisenberg starred in that wasn’t Adventureland. And 30 Minutes or Less borrows heavily from other comedies like Superbad, Pineapple Express, I Love You, Man, The Foot Fist Way and Tropic Thunder. The characters, relationships and even the actors have already appeared in other recent movies together.
In the end, 30 Minutes or Less is a tidy, entertaining nerd action movie that should provide a good distraction for viewers this summer. It just probably has the approximate cultural staying power of its title.
Running time 83 minutes
Written by Michael Diliberti, Matthew Sullivan
Directed by Ruben Fleischer
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride,