August 28, 2011

Movie Review: 30 Minutes or Less

Here is a movie that seems to be harmless enough, but when you factor in some real life events that may or may not have influenced it, takes on a bit more of a darker tone. 30 Minutes or Less chronicles what happens when a pizza delivery guy is attacked by would be customers who strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank within a handful of hours before the bomb goes off. Sure, I can see the comedy there, but at the same time when you consider that this has happened for real, does that sap the comedy of any potential strength? I don't know, I mean a movie is a movie, everything gets its influence from somewhere and this is hardly the first time a real event has been milked for laughs. At least, not that I can think of.

There have been a variety of statements with regards to the cast and crew knowing about the original incident. Director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) has gone on record saying that he did not know of the real event, while there was a statement released saying the writers were vaguely familiar with it. Personally, I am not sure if it really matters, but when you look at the details there is really know denying where the influence for this story came from.

For those who are unfamiliar, the real thing took place in 2003. Brian Wells was attacked and fitted with a bomb and force him to rob a bank in order to fund a hit on his father for inheritance money. It was later revealed that Wells was in on the plot but was double-crossed, you see, the bomb went off, killing Wells. The movie uses this as a launching pad, changing a couple of facts and making it a comedy.

Jesse Eisenberg plays our pizza guy, he is jumped and outfitted with the bomb by a couple of would be criminal masterminds played by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson. They have this plan to use the money in much the same was as the real plot. Eisenberg runs to his best friend and schoolteacher played by Aziz Ansari. The two then freak out and go through the rest of the plot by the numbers.

You know, the movie has its moments but for the most part it is dead on arrival. The plot of the bomb, bank robbery, and getting rid of the bomb are all hit in due time without any real expansion of character or story. The movie stayed on the straight and narrow with regards to the plot. Sadly, this did nothing to help the movie. I never got a real feel for the characters, the whole thing could have been better fleshed out and developed. It is like they knew what the plot of the actual event was and stuck to that, just tweaking the end and making it all for laughs instead of seriously dealing with it.

The movie actually reminds me of another based on a true event that got tweaked a little bit, although it was dealt as more of a horror movie than a comedy. The movie is called Stuck, starring Mena Suvari and Stephen Rea. It is about a woman driving home who hits a man, who is subsequently stuck in her windshield. She then drives home rather than a hospital. Both films stick steadfastly to the event without much deviation. The difference is that 30 Minutes or Less could really have used more development.

It has a few moments of laughter, such as McBride showing Jason Voorhees who is boss, and a few of Ansari's lines are funny. Still, this is not a movie that really requires being seen. It barely runs 80-minutes, but could have used another 20-minutes of material to make it more worthwhile. Of course, you could just skip it and have a discussion about whether or not a tragic criminal's tale should be dealt with in comedic fashion.

Mildly Recommended.

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