Notable Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Michael Peña
Review: In this buddy criminal comedy, all you’d expect are over the top laughs circling a situation too amazingly stupid/genius to believe. But what if this was true? What if this really happened to a degree? Because it sorta did. Fleischer insists he had no idea of the original incident, but Sony has come out and admitted the screenwriters were “vaguely” aware of the situation. Talk about being thrown under the bus. But yes, 8 years ago in Pennsylvania, a 46-year-old pizza man named Brian Wells was killed when a metal bomb collar went off around his neck, which was put on to force him rob a local bank. I’m not one to exploit a somber situation in exchange for entertainment, but I’ll watch it if someone else wants to. It’s tough because you can’t deny the similarities, being one of those situations that’s almost too unique to make up, but at the same time, this was nothing but a harmlessly silly comedy. I’m not going to morally argue what the right or wrong thing to do is, but for what the film did I couldn’t help but enjoy it. This wasn’t a drama trying to depict real events, just comedy. Detach yourself from this big scary world and take the film for what it is, a film.
Nick (Eisenberg) is an achieving pizza boy, wasting his life away with no real hopes or aspirations. His best friend Chet (Ansari) was his partner in crime until he gets a full-time teaching job. In another area of town, Dwayne (McBride) and Travis (Swardson) are living off lottery money Dwayne’s father won, but not without disappointment. After years of going nowhere, Dwayne finally wants to put his get rich quick plan in action. Dwayne wants his father’s lotto money, but he’ll only get it over his father’s dead body. This is why he wants to hire a hit man to make that dream a reality. But without money, a hit man seems too far of a stretch. The only way for Dwayne to afford this expense would be to rob a bank…or have someone do it for him. Unluckily, this is where Nick comes in. While delivering a pizza to an abandoned junkyard, he’s attacked and knocked unconscious. When he wakes up, a bomb vest is strapped to him, and Dwayne is waiting with his friend Travis. Their plan is simple: make Nick rob a bank, or blow him to hell. Nick, not seeing much of a way out, ropes Chet into his crazy situation, and the two have to decide whether to defy the psychopaths that hold a very sensitive trigger, or bite the bullet and take the bank down. Might be fun to rob a bank, no?
The white trash Keyser Sozes…
The cast is what sold 30 Minutes or Less for me, even if it was led by Jesse Eisenberg, the lock for any neurotic character. For once though, he got to shy away from the normal role, and play someone who mostly forgets he has a brain instead of grossly overusing it. But forget him, honestly, because to me he’s nothing but a bit player. He’s the “lead” actor, but about third string comedy starter. If you don’t appreciate Aziz Ansari and his comedy by now (“Parks and Recreation”/”Human Giant”), do yourself a favor and find every bit of stand up he’s ever done. Along with his numerous hilarious character roles, this guy kills it on stage. But, if you know that already, watching this high-pitched Indian man rob a bank should be enough of a selling point. Ansari’s comedic timing and physical reactions to situations are unmatched in Hollywood right now, as he can switch tones on a whim. He’s figured out his strengths and weaknesses as a comedian, and he’s perfected how to use them. Making people laugh is so much more than telling a joke or simply saying a funny line. Delivery is everything, and Aziz does it like no other.
This brings me to the two bumbling wanna-be criminals in McBride and Swardson. With me, both comedians are notoriously hit or miss. McBride can be one of my favorite TV characters in Kenny Powers, but then be so blatantly unfunny in Your Highness. It’s honestly almost inexplicable, as he always is in the same character type, but he just works here. Usually McBride plays the obviously dumb character, but with Swardson next to him, he suddenly becomes a mastermind. Those are the interactions I love with McBride, explaining his twisted incompetence to someone else, and having them think it’s gold (much like his usage of Stevie in “Eastbound and Down”). Swardson is in his wheelhouse role, not talking too much and just chiming to shut McBride up every now and then. A perfect example of this? Grandma’s Boy. Hilarious support to Allen Covert. But if there’s anyone who knows how to kill a joke in my eyes, it’s Swardson (I thought his trailer for Bucky Larson: Born to Be A Star was a practical joke. I was wrong, and dumbfounded.). I think if used right Swardson is a giant asset, but not everyone knows how successfully do this. We’ll, here he’s perfect, and he rounds out a cast of comedic actors that gel together in a way that doesn’t always happen for them. Oh yeah! Don’t forget Michael Peña! This guy comes out of nowhere, and as he did in Observe and Report, plays a funny bit part, this time as a mumbling gangster. Just in time too, before Tower Heist comes out and inevitably makes me talk about what a wasted opportunity his character is (c’mon, just watch the trailer).
At this point, I can say Reuben Fleischer knows comedy. He worked into a zombie film, and now into a crime comedy. In a way, this script almost feels written towards my generation, referencing current trending jokes (That’s What She Said?) and things like “Call of Duty.” Fact is though, Fleischer has had talented scripts to work with, but he knows how to draw the comedy out. But this isn’t without a ton of help from the cast. For me, I’m on a huge Aziz kick, so that’s a plus one in my book. For those not on the same page as me though, I genuinely believe the comedy itself here can win you over. Just know what you’re getting into. If you aren’t into idiotic and raunchy humor, you’re going to hate the characters Swardson and McBride play. It’s simple fact. If you hate clichéd burnout characters, Eisenberg will do nothing but piss you off. But if you love the situation of rookie criminals trying to mastermind a bank robbery with some home-made explosives and an already degraded pizza boy, I can’t see 30 Minutes or Less letting you down all that much
Final Rating: 7 home-made flame throwers out of 10
If I could pick anyone to rob a bank with, Aziz would definitely make my top 5.