30 Minutes Or Less Movie Review: Freaky Fast Food Comedic Crime Thriller


A movie with at least two disparate beat the clock, literally over the speed limit racing against time motifs, Ruben Fleischer’s 30 Minutes Or Less mixes pizza delivery guarantees or you get the pie for free, with a bank heist threat featuring the victimized meal messenger in question strapped with a bomb set to detonate, or else. Which is to say, that 30 Minutes Or Less is a sinister split personality if not oddly hilarious cheesy thriller, and we’re not talking pizza.

Jesse Eisenberg, who seems to be perfecting his skills lately in movies like The Social Network, Holy Rollers and even dodging the undead in director Fleischer’s Zombieland – possibly less as an actor than a crafty hustler – is Nick. He’s an insanely exploited bottom feeder, vocationally stuck delivering pizzas by car in economically depressed Grand Rapids, Michigan.

And since that ’30 minutes or less’ 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 instead – he’s devised an array of gimmicks for ripping off any cheapskate customers right back. And buyer beware – meaning the movie audience – this opener in the frantic comedy is really funny, but about as funny as it ever gets.

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 Pena), 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. And not up to performing that dastardly deed themselves, 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.

And though Nick’s ’30 minute 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 delowered his twin sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria).

Now, while Quentin Tarantino earns bragging right for most originating in contemporary times a malevolent brand of dubious dark comedy laced with really awful tragedy intended as humor, that trend seems to be sliding downhill ever since. Because is perverse laughter directed at terrible stuff in the real world, like suicide bombers – along with minimum wage Erie, Pa. pizza delivery drudge Brian Wells, who actually did get blown to bits against his will in August 2003 outside his local bank – really the way to go?

On other hand, instead of an awkwardly amusing brand of homicidal humor in this freaky fast food joke-a-minute crime thriller, you can always go for grossout instead. And as seemingly the only other alternative in comedy these days at the plexes, you get to choose your poison.

Sony Pictures

Rated R

2 stars

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.