30 Minutes or Less delivers big laughs

Learning that there is a true story that is eerily similar to the plot of 30 Minutes or Less was a bit unnerving.

30 Minutes or Less is a comedy, a dark one, loosely based on a true situation that didn’t end so well for one pizza delivery man in Erie, Pa., back in 2003. Those attached to the film say the movie is not the story of Brian Wells, who was kidnapped and forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest. The bomb exploded and Wells died.

I heard the story back when it happened but didn’t connect it to the movie until I attended the screening last week.

In the movie, Jesse Eisenberg is Nick, a pizza delivery driver in love with the twin sister of his best friend/roommate, Chet (Aziz Ansari). Meanwhile, on the other side of town, are two slackers, Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) who have come up with a harebrained plan to murder Dwayne’s lottery-winning father (Fred Ward) for an early inheritance.

They’re too wimpy to pull the trigger themselves, so they hire a hit man, Chango (Michael Pena, in a seriously stereotyped Latino role played for laughs). In order to come up with the $100,000 to pay Chango, they decide to kidnap a stranger and force him to rob a bank. Travis, being somewhat of a pyrotechnics expert, designs a bomb that they will strap to the unlucky guy’s chest to ensure he complies.

That unlucky guy winds up being Nick, who then recruits Chet to help him pull off the heist. The movie’s high points come when the guys are preparing for the robbery and during the actual heist.

Eisenberg reunites with his Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer, this time with an Oscar nomination under his belt for The Social Network. I’m growing a bit tired of his nerdy loser shtick (OK, let’s face it, I think he probably doesn’t have to “act” much to come across this way), but seriously, between Adventureland, Zombieland, The Social Network and now 30 Minutes or Less, Eisenberg could teach a master class.

Ansari had the best lines and provided the most laughs. I’m a fan of his character Tom Haverford from the Parks and Recreation TV show, but I’ve never taken notice of him in a movie before, even though he’s had parts in Funny People and Get Him to the Greek. I expect he’ll eventually make the move from sidekick to lead actor.

I’ve never been too crazy about McBride or Swardson, but the characters they play really suit them in 30 Minutes or Less. Could I believe those two slackers want to kill someone for an inheritance? That’s a no-brainer.

30 Minutes or Less is a brisk 83 minutes. Any longer than that and I think the plot would have worn thin. I appreciated the unpredictable ending. The small romantic plot is weak and the actress (Dilshad Vadsaria) didn’t display enough personality to leave a memorable impression.

On the one hand, 30 Minutes or Less is enjoyable with more laughs than expected. On the other hand, it’s sad that this really happened to someone, only his ending was much different than what the movie depicts. ••

Movie Grade: B