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Movies: 30 Minutes or Less


Aziz Ansari (left) and Jesse Eisenberg in 30 Minutes or Less.

A movie with at least two disparate beat-the-clock motifs, Ruben Fleischer’s 30 Minutes Or Less mixes pizza-delivery guarantees with a bank heist threat wherein the meal messenger in question is strapped with a bomb set to detonate if his demands aren’t met.

Jesse Eisenberg—who is perfecting his skills lately in movies like The Social Network, Holy Rollers and director Fleischer’s Zombieland—is Nick, an insanely exploited bottom feeder, vocationally stuck delivering pizzas by car in economically depressed Grand Rapids, Michigan. And since the titular clause applies primarily to him—the buyer gets the pizza for free if it arrives late, and the tab comes out of Nick’s pitiful salary—he’s devised an array of gimmicks for ripping off any cheapskate customers right back. And yes, this opener in the frantic comedy is really funny, but about as funny as it ever gets.


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Meanwhile on another side of town, a pair of fanatical slackers Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) are mulling schemes to separate a bundle of bucks from Dwayne’s deranged dad (Fred Ward). And they settle on itinerant hitman Chango (Michael Peña), recommended by a gabby lap dancer (Bianca Kajlich) at the sleazy strip club in town.

But to come up with the money to hire Chango, the dangerously daffy duo figure out that they need to rob a bank. Not up to performing that deed themselves, however, they kidnap Nick, strapping a homemade bomb to him. And they send him on his way to pull off the heist, presumably before the contraption detonates. Though Nick’s “30 minutes or less” skills should come in handy during such a crisis, in this case they’re not quite handy enough—leading to an urgent plea for help directed at disapproving best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari), who is currently peeved upon discovering that Nick happened to have recently deflowered his twin sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria).

Now, while Quentin Tarantino has fashioned an important oeuvre from his malevolent combination of dubious dark comedy and truly awful tragedy, that recipe is not always in such capable hands. Because is perverse laughter directed at terrible stuff in the real world—like suicide bombers, or pizza delivery-drudge Brian Wells, on whom this story is based, and who actually did get blown to bits against his will in August 2003 outside his local bank—really the way to go? And if it is, where is the line drawn?

30 MINUTES OR LESS 

Sony Pictures, Rated R

2/4 stars

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