Fleicher would — much like Jesse Eisenberg’s character Nick — literally have had a bomb on his hands in 30 Minutes or Less without the talented Mr. Ansari.
Ansari, being the movie’s saving grace, comes at some surprise considering that Fleicher directed Eisenberg as the lead in his quite awesome Zombieland. I expected the Oscar-nominated Eisenberg to really dominate the screen beside Ansari who is mainly known for his standup and being really awesome in Parks and Recreation, but it never happened. Eisenberg had some great deadpan parts but he just isn’t believable as a slacker here.
In fact, that is the whole problem with this film. Even after accepting the premise and willfully suspending disbelief, no work is done to make sure the plot is believable.
Nick is a slacker pizza delivery boy with — as my mother would say — no gumption. He’s depressed and lazy and still pining after his best friend’s sister. His best friend is Chet, played by Ansari. Chet and Nick have a bro-breakup (or something, I don’t really know what to call it) but Eisenberg is so unbelievable as a slacker it never really works.
Nick delivers a pizza to two slacker wannabe criminals, Dwayne played by Danny McBride and Travis played by Nick Swardson, who have hatched a plan to get money to hire an assassin to kill Dwayne’s lottery winning ex-Marine father and take his money to open up a brothel/tanning salon. If reading that sounds as overly convoluted and stupid as typing it does, then you’ve got an idea as to why this movie fails. But wait, it gets better.
Dwayne and Travis knock Nick out and strap a bomb to his chest and give him 10 hours to rob a bank.
Then there is about 30 minutes of ridiculously funny movie as Ansari and Eisenberg banter and deliver some great lines as they try and figure out how to rob a bank. And the situation that everything else builds up to, which is forcing some slacker to rob a bank for you, is inherently pretty funny. It’s all the other stuff that is really poorly done.
The movie has some subplot about Nick being in love with Chet’s sister, but it was just a really obvious and poorly conceived plot point and there was no chemistry between the sister and Nick. The movie tries to replicate some of the heart that Zombieland had, but doesn’t really put enough effort into for it to be effective.
Good thing the movie is only about 83 minutes long because even in its short-running time, there is still too much filler in this movie. Anytime Ansari isn’t spouting some hilarious monologue or Eisenberg isn’t in some desperate situation where his natural nervousness and neuroses really shine, the movie starts to stall. Again, Ansari, and to a lesser degree the rest of the acting talent involved, saves 30 Minutes or Less from being a one-star movie.