The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Saturday, November 2, 2013

30 Minutes or Less

I've made no bones about my general dislike for actor Jesse Eisenberg. I feel like he plays the same character in one movie after another; a smarmy, sarcastic and whiny individual who just doesn't know when to shut up. Thankfully, it hasn't ruined a movie yet, and there's been some good ones from Adventureland to The Social Network to Zombieland. How about 2011's 30 Minutes or Less? The jury is still out.

A pizza delivery man in his mid-20s, Nick (Eisenberg) has hit a bit of a rough spot. For one, he's a pizza delivery guy, his quasi-girlfriend is moving to Atlanta, and he's gotten into a friendship-ending fight with his longtime buddy and roommate, Chet (Aziz Ansari). Well, it's about to get worse. Delivering a pizza before closing, he's kidnapped and knocked out by two D-list crooks (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), waking up the next morning with a bomb strapped to his chest. The crooks are cash-strapped and have a plan in mind for some money...have Nick rob a bank for them. He's got about 10 hours to rob one of the banks in town and bring $100,000 back to them. If he doesn't go along with it or contacts the police? They'll blow him up with a remote detonator. The clock is ticking so Nick sees if Chet can somehow help him.

Now, I have a sick, pretty dark sense of humor. I can laugh at some really wrong, uncomfortable things. Okay, I have some limits. This comedy from director Ruben Fleischer is based on a true story with one major difference. In real life, a pizza delivery guy was killed when crooks strapped a bomb to him, the bomb exploding before he could figure out how to remove the bomb. Read about it HERE. If you can get past that issue, you'll probably enjoy this movie. I think I did. I'm not sure. Parts are really funny, making the most out of a genuinely uncomfortable situation. 'Minutes' is a good mix of thrills and laughs -- however bizarre -- with an oddball mix of a cast. You just have to get past that nasty based on a true story part.

Brace yourself. I liked Jesse Eisenberg in this one. It just took a bomb being strapped to his body for it to happen. He starts off as his smarmy self with passive aggressive one-liners, but once he's kidnapped there's some frenetic energy on display so we get to see a different side of Eisenberg. I guess I'd have some frenetic energy too with a bomb attached to my body too. Aiding the cause is the bizarre, off the wall, Odd Couple friendship between Eisenberg's Nick and Ansari's Chet. As he's shown in his comedy shows and Parks and Recreation, Ansari has a perfect ability to ad-lib and improvise at will. It's almost bizarre in its delivery, whether its his underplayed lines or the complete opposite with his freaking out, "My friend has a bomb strapped to him!" mentality. Of course, it's ridiculous because most of the time he's far too calm, but that's part of all the fun.

A couple scenes especially stand out. Following their fight, Chet struggles with what to do. A substitute teacher at a grammar school, Chet understandably LOSES IT when a bombed-up Nick walks in. His best line comes though when he finally decides to help, deciding that if he didn't he'd one day lose it while he's hanging out with his future wife and kids. "I shouldn't have let my friend explode." Deadpan perfect. The other has Chet spray painting plastic guns, singing a little song about what will happen if he didn't spray paint the guns. It's those little moments -- almost entirely from Ansari -- that produce the biggest laughs.

The rest of the cast is decent if nothing crazy. McBride seems to inspire love or hate among viewers, nothing in between. His generally filthy, similarly deadpan deliveries work for me, and I like him so as long as you know what his Dwayne character is going to be like, you'll be fine. Like Eisenberg and Ansari, McBride and Swardson have a good chemistry. The visual of the duo wearing gorilla/monkey masks while spouting their plan is pretty funny as well. Also look for Fred Ward as Dwayne's lottery-winning father, Michael Pena as a Detroit hitman brought into the mix, Dilshad Vadsaria as Chet's twin sister, Kate, and Bianca Kajilich as a stripper Dwayne meets and unknowingly puts the whole plan into motion. And yes, she's topless so there's that.    

Know what you're getting here. The humor is anywhere from stupid to sexual to violent and sometimes combinations of those three. It's only 83 minutes long so if you hate it, so be it, it's not even an hour and a half long. I didn't love it, but there's enough to recommend.

30 Minutes or Less (2011): ** 1/2 /****

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