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30 Minutes or Less Blu-ray Review

30: Minutes or Less (2011) movie poster 30 Minutes or Less

Theatrical Release: August 12, 2011 / Running Time: 83 Minutes / Rating: R / Songs List

Director: Ruben Fleischer / Writers: Michael Diliberti (story & screenplay), Matthew Sullivan (story)

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg (Nick Davis), Danny McBride (Dwayne), Aziz Ansari (Chet), Nick Swardson (Travis), Dilshad Vadsaria (Kate), Michael Peña (Chango), Bianca Kajlich (Juicy), Fred Ward (The Major), Brett Gelman (Pizza Boss), Gary Brichetto (Mr. Fisher), Rebecca Cox (Sandra)

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Ruben Fleischer made his feature directing debut on Zombieland, a film I'd rank among the best of its year and its entire decade. After that movie, which held his first widely-seen lead role, Jesse Eisenberg went on to play one of the juiciest parts around, portraying Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg for director David Fincher.
The Social Network won Eisenberg widespread acclaim and a Best Actor Academy Award nomination. If you thought that would usher in a more dramatic phase in Eisenberg's career, you might be right. But shortly before The Social Network opened, Eisenberg reunited with Fleischer for the R-rated comedy 30 Minutes or Less.

Dabbling again in action/comedy with four recognizable principals, Fleischer seemed to raise expectations of a sophomore effort comparable to his hit foray, especially with distributor Columbia Pictures emphasizing the connection in marketing. But we're missing two integral members of the Zombieland team, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. 30 Minutes marks the writing debut of Michael Diliberti, a former assistant of legendarily volatile power producer Scott Rudin. Diliberti alone is attributed with the screenplay and he shares story credit with fellow novice Matthew Sullivan. Their comedy is far less refined and on-point than the pitch-perfect material Reese and Wernick gave Fleischer's first film. That puts a noticeable damper on the proceedings that the director, star, and three established co-stars cannot overcome.

In an isolated junkyard, pizza delivery boy Nick Davis (Jesse Eisenberg) is strapped into a booby-trapped bomb vest by two men in monkey masks who demand he rob a bank for them.

Eisenberg plays Nick Davis, a pizza-delivering man-child in his mid-twenties. He doesn't love the job, but he's not motivated to find anything better. He's content drinking beers and renting Lethal Weapon movies with his slightly more driven best friend, substitute grade school teacher Chet (Aziz Ansari, "Parks and Recreation").

One night, his hours extended by one final delivery, Nick is called to a sketchy scrapyard where two men in gorilla masks knock him out with chloroform. When he wakes up, he has a bomb strapped to his chest with a timer counting down ten hours until detonation. The vest is booby trapped so as not to be removed and is also at the mercy of Nick's abductors, who at any time can dial a number, enter a code, and remotely cause it to explode. Nick is given one order: rob $100,000 from a specific bank and hand it over to them, or lose his life.

Though Nick doesn't know his tormentors by anything but voice, we do. They are Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), a pair of lowlifes who hatch a plan to off Dwayne's father (Fred Ward), a retired Marine major living comfortably on an $8 million lottery payout. Freeloader Dwayne can't stand having his lack of employment and ambition questioned. On the advice of a stripper named Juicy (Bianca Kajlich), Dwayne decides to speed up his cushy foreseen inheritance by paying a hitman (Michael Peña, increasingly fond of weird comedy roles) to kill The Major for him. It's a boneheaded plan and one that Travis objects to, but it's one that he and Dwayne commit their time and unlikely pyrotechnic expertise to.

Nick teams up with Chet, pulling him out of his classroom to be his accomplice. Naturally, the two young men are not cut out for criminality. Their stumbling through a car theft, a bank robbery, and a high-speed police chase are the best gags the film has to offer. And they're not bad, with both Eisenberg and Ansari as believably and amusingly nerdy as any actors of their generation. Across from them, Dwayne does not take long to get on your nerves; his bravado wears thin, as do the still-developing evil plans that Travis is reluctantly along for.

Nick's best friend, substitute teacher Chet (Aziz Ansari), sets aside their present feud to become his equally inexperienced partner in crime. Travis (Nick Swardson) and Dwayne (Danny McBride) are too dumb to go anywhere in life, but not too dumb to hatch an elaborate criminal plot.

Both the insufficiently loathsome villains and the inadequately likable antiheroes are saddled with dialogue that's weak, obvious, and unendingly vulgar. If the laughs aren't there to begin with, adding the F-word and crude sexual slang isn't going to heighten them. It's unfortunate that four actors who have all made significant contributions to recent large and small screen comedy (I realize that some wouldn't give Swardson that much credit) cannot do more with what should be a funny caper. Diliberti's script can't seem to uncover humor, suspense, or surprises.
There is a lot of plotting but little payoff. Laughs are scattered and are often born out of throwaway lines and our familiarity with the actors' usual personas (from which only the uncharacteristically understated Swardson greatly departs). The main material advances the plot, but rarely in an amusing, creative, or memorable way.

One final thing that casts a pall over the movie is the screenplay's apparent inspiration by real-life events. In 2003, a middle-aged pizza delivery man in Erie, Pennsylvania was strapped with a bomb around his neck and supposedly coerced into robbing a bank. Though his innocence has been questioned, his misadventures definitely weren't so funny: the bomb went off, "blasting a fist-sized hole" in his chest three minutes before the bomb squad could arrive. Not exactly the blueprint for a mainstream comedy. The cast and filmmakers vowed ignorance of the deadly incident, while acknowledging that the screenwriters were "vaguely aware" of it. Obviously, the similarities end pretty quickly, but there are enough parallels between the plot and the tragedy to provide a touch of discomfort.

Unable to contest August's reputation as the weak link in the summer box office, 30 Minutes grossed a modest $37 million, a number comparable to several of the month's other releases, but less than half of what Zombieland did domestically in the fall of 2009. It enjoys one of the year's quicker theater-to-disc turnarounds when it hits DVD and Blu-ray on November 29th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

30 Minutes or Less: Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.40:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English, French), Dolby Digital 5.1 (Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: November 29, 2011
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (BD-50)
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Blue Keepcase with Side Snap
Also available on DVD ($30.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Though 30 Minutes or Less may have its problems, the Blu-ray's transfer is not one of them. The 2.40:1 presentation is amazingly clean, lucid, and sharp, ranking among the best I've seen on the format. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix is good as well. The dialogue is always perfectly crisp, sound effects are capably mixed to provide dimensionality and music is put on nice display without overpowering other elements or requiring volume adjustments. It seems like there is no room for picture or sound to be improved on this movie on this format, not that it's the type of movie likely to be upgraded at any point.

From the film's junkyard set, Michael Peña voices his enthusiasm for being part of "The Cast and Crew of '30 Minutes or Less.'" The deleted scenes include this Vito's Pizza commercial featuring the restaurant's owner (Brett Gelman).

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The all-HD bonus features slate kicks off with a picture-in-picture video commentary from director Ruben Fleischer and the film's four stars, Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, and Nick Swardson. This is basically just an audio commentary with video of the five commentators recording in the lower-right quadrant of the screen.
The presentation doesn't gain too much from that mix of close-ups and group shots, other than us always being aware of who's talking, which we probably already would have. Their talk is expectedly light and lively, with real details about the summer Grand Rapids production emerging around many jokey observations.

"Blowing Up with the Cast and Crew of 30 Minutes or Less" (14:08) is a making-of featurette that devotes a minute or two to profiling the eight leading characters and celebrating the actors who play them. We get a lot of welcome remarks, from funny to sincere, plus plenty of behind-the-scenes footage.

"The Perfect Crime: Action and Comedy in 30 Minutes or Less" (10:58) talks about the action and specific high-energy sequences, with everyone appreciating getting to do something unusual for comedy amidst sarcasm and outlandish film comparisons.

Not surprising considering the film's brief runtime, we get a decent supply of deleted scenes. The ten cuts run 11 minutes and 40 seconds overall and boast the same picture quality as the film itself. The moments are largely self-contained and moderately entertaining, but do not contain anything that would have added something important to the film. The cuts include alternate endings, resolution for The Major, and more obvious job dissatisfaction for Nick.

Aziz Ansari improvises predicaments worse than the one Nick's in in this central outtake clip. The Blu-ray menu upholds the film's theme, which is why Dilshad Vadsaria shares the the screen with windshield wipers, a crack, and a pizza man timer.

Outtakes (6:06) are not the usual bloopers. Instead, unused improvisations from three existing scenes are presented. There's the occasional crack-up, but mostly we get Aziz Ansari cleverly ad libbing unpleasant deaths and Danny McBride and Nick Swardson less amusingly discussing deviant sexual acts their dream massage parlor will offer (and their code names).

Finally, there should be some BD-Live features, but for whatever reason, the disc was unable to recognize my player's Internet connection, possibly because the content won't be active until street date.
In addition, the press release mentions an "SP3 Theme/Wallpaper", which I think means something for PlayStation 3 owners.

Because price and resolution aren't enough to distinguish the formats, the commentary and "The Perfect Crime" are kept off the DVD along with the inherently exclusives that were inaccessible to me.

The disc opens with a new up-to-date Blu-ray promo giving the format a longer, harder sell with a wealth of recent Sony movie clips. It is followed by trailers for Colombiana, Attack the Block, and Straw Dogs. Those three are also accessible by the menu's "Previews" section, along with ones for A Good Old Fashioned Orgy and Swardson's mega flop Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star. 30 Minutes or Less' own theatrical trailer is disappointingly absent.

The menu gives us a hood view from the car as a minute counts down and clips play in front, occasionally their action affecting the windshield. The disc resembles the Vito's Pizza logo, which is also employed as a disc loading icon. Bookmarks and resuming are both supported. The inside of the case gives us an artistic rendering of one of the gorilla-masked criminals with a flamethrower.

Chet (Aziz Ansari) and Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) are far from their comfort zone as they try to rob a bank in ski masks.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

30 Minutes or Less is both less funny and less exciting than it should be. That's especially disappointing as director Ruben Fleischer's follow-up to the winning Zombieland. This falls at the lower end of the summer's unusually strong R-rated comedy crop.

Sony's Blu-ray serves up a first-rate feature presentation and a good smattering of extras. Comedy fans will still want to check this out, but one viewing will likely be enough.

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Related Reviews:
New to Blu-ray: Horrible Bosses • Bad Teacher • Planes, Trains & Automobiles • Rushmore (Criterion Collection)
Directed by Ruben Fleischer: Zombieland | Jesse Eisenberg: Adventureland • Rio • Solitary Man • The Village
Danny McBride: Tropic Thunder • The Foot Fist Way • Due Date • The Heartbreak Kid
Aziz Ansari: Funny People • I Love You, Man • Scrubs: The Complete Eighth Season
Nick Swardson: Just Go With It • Blades of Glory • Reno 911!: The Complete Sixth Season Uncensored
Youth in Revolt • She's Out of My League • Strange Wilderness • The Other Guys

30 Minutes or Less Songs List (in order of use): The Hives - "Tick Tick Boom", Beastie Boys - "Sure Shot", Generationals - "I Promise", "In the Barn", Band of Horses - "Laredo", Cut Copy - "Where I'm Going", "Hey Luigi", R. Kelly - "Ignition (Remix)", Kid Cudi - "Is There Any Love", Patrizio Buanne - "Luna Mezzo Mare", Akwid - "No Hay Manera (Jason Roberts Remix)", "Private Affair", "Secret Affair", Third Eye Blind - "Jumper", Billy Squier - "The Stroke", Glenn Frey - "The Heat is On", "El Querreque", "Hard Hitter Reggaeton - JP", Slayer - "Raining Blood", "Marines Hymn", M.O.P. - "Ante Up (Robbin Hoodz Theory)", The 2 Live Crew - "Me So Horny", Ol' Dirty Bastard feat. Kelis - "Got Your Money", "National Anthem"

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Reviewed November 21, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 Columbia Pictures, Media Rights Capital, Red Hour Productions, and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
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