Any trailer that has a gag about a guy bringing a bomb to a school is the type of dark comedy I’m intrigued to explore. 30 Minutes or Less is a fun, race-against-the-clock ride, but it never gets into the black comedy its trailer suggests. Furthermore, the fact that it’s based on a real-life situation that yielded less than upbeat results does make you question the film’s moral compass.
Fresh from his Oscar-nominated role in The Social Network, Jesse Eisenberg says “screw all that pretension” and re-joins Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer to play a swearing slacker stoner named Nick, the pizza man who is fitted with a bomb vest and told to rob a bank. If he doesn’t get his pyrotechnic captors $100,000 within ten hours, they’ll send Nick to pizza man heaven. Nick and his only friend Chet (Parks and Recreation‘s Aziz Ansari) rob a bank, beat up gangsters, and get in police chases, with action hero dreams dancing in their heads.
The same simple fun of Zombieland is repeated here (with Eisenberg no longer playing the wannabe Michael Cera, as he was the zombie hijinks comedy). The dialogue is quick and snappy, dragged down only by Danny McBride’s terrible improv (in both 30 Minutes and last year’s Your Highness, the man has the delusion that saying “fuck” on its own is supposed to be funny). Thankfully, Eisenberg and Ansari’s banter and the action scenes keep the film on track.
30 Minutes or Less, though it’s a decent comedy, is one of the only films you’ll encounter that will downplay its “based on a true story” roots. Brian Wells was an actual pizza delivery man who concocted a scheme to rob a bank with a bomb vest. His co-horts-turned-captors were supposed to rig him with a fake bomb, but when it came to bank robbing time, they fitted him with an actual bomb instead. Wells did not survive the attempted heist. Though the screenwriters claim they were only vaguely aware of the Wells story, there are enough similarities with both stories (kidnap someone, outfit them with a bomb vest to rob a bank to pay an assassin to kill a father), it’s obvious they’re trying to avoid a lawsuit.
Once you know this movie is based on a real event with tragic consequences, the ends don’t justify the means. Could you imagine a Columbine comedy? Maybe these guys have never heard the phrase “dancing on someone’s grave.”
Oh well. If 30 Minutes or Less does well at the box office, maybe it can pave the way for my 9/11 comedy.