30 Minutes or Less

As much as August is the traditional throw-away month for forgettable movies, there’s always at least one late-summer flick that emerges from that four-week vast wasteland and entertains… even more than you might have expected.

In 2009, it was District 9. In 2010, it was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and now in 2011 we get 30 Minutes or Less. While not remotely on par with those other two, 30 Minutes still manages to provide a solid 83 minutes of fun. (Yes, it’s only 83 minutes long… and that includes the great bonus scene after the credits).

It’s an often-hilarious, sometimes-goofy black comedy that hits more than it misses and throws political correctness into the dumpster (which, frankly, is sometimes where it belongs).

Danny McBride plays Dwayne, the doltish son of an ex-Marine (Fred Ward) who won the lotto. Tired of being his tyrannical dad’s pool cleaner, Dwayne muses out loud during a lap dance one night that he’d sure like to get his dad’s inheritance before it’s all spent. When lap-dancer Juicy offers up her hitman boyfriend for $100K, Dwayne sees the light at the end of the tunnel (or maybe just the breasts in front of his face).

He takes the idea to his ‘simple’ friend Travis (Nick Swardson), who whiles away his days blowing up watermelons with C-4, and together the two devise their plan: kidnap a pizza delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest, and force him to rob the $100K from the local bank. Then they’ll take the money, pay the hitman, and wait for Dad to get killed. It’s then on to living the high life with Juicy while running a tanning parlor as a front for a prostitution ring. What could possibly go wrong?

Director Ruben Fleischer brings the same, perfect amount of madcap urgency to 30 Minutes or Less as he did with his previous flick, 2009’s standout Zombieland, and the script by first-timer Michael Diliberti wisely skirts all-out raunch in favor of dark, biting (and black as midnight) humor.

Eisenberg hits it out of the park as Nick, the unfortunate pizza guy; his sheer panic at his predicament, coupled with his resolve to get out of it, anchor the movie perfectly. Both McBride and Swardson are so convincing as the bumbling idiots that you’ll almost think it’s not an act, but the real star of the show is Aziz Ansari (NBC’s Parks & Recreation) as Nick’s best friend (and unwilling accomplice) Chet. His manic energy and solid timing elevate every scene he’s in.

30 Minutes or Less had the potential to be an infantile mess punctuated by groaners and eye-rolling silliness, but the strong cast, tight writing, and kid-flick running time save it, making it a surprisingly fun way to start closing out the summer.

3.5/5 stars