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Friday, August 12, 2011

30 Minutes or Less (2011)- Film Review

Caper comedies are a dime a dozen, and most of them are pretty bad. I’m not sure why. You would think there would be a lot of comedy in what can go wrong in a crime. 30 Minutes or Less is an example of a movie that really just sort of hangs there, probably because things go just a little too right. While the focus of the film is a bank robbery, this robbery, and the subsequent chase eat up about 5 minutes of the movie. The rest of the film is filled with dialogue that is only occasionally funny executed by characters that are in no way believable.

30 Minutes or Less follows Nick, a sub-par pizza delivery man who is dating his best friend’s sister and is about to have a very bad day. Two idiotic slackers, Dwayne and Travis (played by the impressively unfunny Danny McBride and the equally inept Nick Swardson, respectfully) decide that they want to off the former’s dad played by Fred Ward (Who is making me long for Remo Williams here), so they devise a convoluted plan to have an unsuspecting victim rob a bank for them so they can get money to pay a hitman, so that they can get the job done professionally so as not to effect Dwayne’s inheritance (the result of his father‘s big lottery jackpot). The victim is Nick, on whom they strap a bomb-vest, and they tell him he has 10 hours to rob a bank. Nick grabs his friend Chet from his substitute teaching job (that apparently he can just up and walk out of on a whim), and they go together to plan the robbery. Things do not go as planned, however, when the stripper who planted the idea of assassination in Dwayne’s head plans to double-cross him with her hitman boyfriend (this double-cross is evident though the movie doesn’t do a good job of establishing it, and though I believe some might put the pieces together, I doubt this film’s target audience will). They plan to take the money and run. Misunderstandings ensue and the completely stupid Dwayne then becomes the target of the hitman’s wrath. It all ends in a final standoff that is predictable and completely uninspired.

The flaw of this film is that in reality, if Nick were abducted while on the job, there would have been some sort of reported lack of contact from his employer (Is he still on the clock this whole time? Is he clocking overtime hours while evading the authorities?) . Then there’s the cop that could have ended the situation immediately that runs away comically instead of trying to protect and serve. So in this world, even the characters that only have three lines are incredibly stupid. The fact that this particular movie relies entirely on plot points that is are so improbable (that no one would notice a worker disappearing while on the clock, and that only one cop would arrive at the scene of a bank robbery) is evidence that there really wasn’t a whole lot of thought that went into this film’s screenplay. I would also like to point out that I had a hard time believing Travis could devise a bomb vest with a cell-phone trigger, that required some serious suspension of disbelief.

30 Minutes or Less is the product of Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer and first-time screenwriter Michael Diliberti. I liked Zobieland, it was a simple, campy and fun movie, but it still didn‘t come near The Lost Weekend territory. 30 Minutes or Less, while occasionally funny, manages to eliminate a lot of the things I enjoyed about Zombieland. It lacks likeable characters, and it lacks any real identity. It feels like a 20-minute episode of a very strange show stretched out over 80 minutes. There just isn’t enough material here, and so we get a lot of filler and a lot of inane dialogue between the characters. This is a problem considering the dialogue isn’t all that good.

This is one of those screenplays that seems to giggle at dirty words. “Tee-hee! He said a bad word.” It doesn’t really have any brains or heart behind it. It really just seems like the ramblings of a couple of guys who think they are extremely clever who begin throwing out ideas on the back porch after putting a few back. The characters exist in a strange world where people speak in “supposedly-quotable dialogue” . I emphasize supposedly because I am pretty sure that nobody is going to care about or even remember this movie in five years. It just floated in out of nowhere, made a few people laugh (tending to target people of slightly lower intelligence), and it will likely vanish as fast is it arrived. Being mediocre is a kiss of death. Everyone remembers the best and the worst, nobody recalls what is truly forgettable. This is a throwaway production, and I can just picture the actors walking up to the producer’s office, saying “Am I done here?”, grabbing their check and moving on to the next project.

Acting-wise, Jesse Eisenberg isn’t bad. I like him as an actor and the fact that he agreed to this film is commendable. I believe he was trying to break away from the “socially awkward nerd” that he has become known for playing and broaden his range. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. I think he has the potential to play this sort of character, but he needs better material than this. The rest of the cast seemed right at home with the material, though I don’t know what that says about them as actors. Aziz Ansari acts like he’s doing stand-up comedy on screen and Danny McBride is playing, well, Danny McBride. Nick Swardson really isn’t doing much but is occasionally funny as the submissive friend and also the conscience of the duo. The rest of the characters, including a bit-part by Michael Peña (who you may remember for his performance in Crash, a terrific film, but is reduced to a comic stereotype here) are just sort of hanging around to add filler to this thin plot.

In closing, 30 Minutes or Less doesn’t matter. You won’t gain anything from seeing it, and you won’t really lose anything either (Except the time and money). It has occasional laughs but it really is just too juvenile to warrant a recommendation from me. This film’s pursuit of an R rating is going to hurt it for this very reason. Older and more sophisticated audiences will be dumbfounded by the idiocy on display and the kids that would laugh at the sillier moments are locked-out due to the film’s pervasive profanity and unnecessary nudity. I’m not a prude when it comes to content in cinema (I’ve mentioned that before), but if your “adult content” is just there to up the film to an R from PG-13 territory, it shows that there really wasn’t much hope for this project to begin with. They had to know they weren’t getting a clever and fun romp like the Hangover or Forgetting Sarah Marshall, so I can only assume that the R-rating was basically just a bad marketing decision. With a film this banal, it goes without saying that trying to expand your audience is the wise decision (you want to get as much money as you can as a return on your investment), because it is very unlikely that this film will have a huge home video run, and thus this one relies wholly on the first-time viewers at theatres (and largely during the opening weekend before word gets out too much about it). That is a tough market to crack when you push your film too high up the Ladder of Profanity.

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