Fred Ward

Review: “30 Minutes or Less” delivers a great big slice of R-rated comedy

August 12th, 2011 at 12:01 am by under Entertainment
Not only is “30 Minutes or Less” an action comedy for R-rated tolerant audiences to see, but its even more of a treat for West Michigan residents.

DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU  in the title and the first line of this review… and again here… this is not for younger audiences… or viewers easily offended by raunchy humor and/or adult content.  If you see this movie and then complain about the R-rated humor, situations, references, or innuendos – don’t blame this reviewer – this movie is not for all ages or all moviegoers.

"30 Minutes or Less" poster courtesy Sony

 (My spoiler-free review)

With my warning clear, lets get to the good stuff: this movie moves along with a brisk, fun, action pace that should have all appropriate audiences (see above) enjoying themselves.   There’s an abundant cleverness to this movie that keeps it above much of raunchiness just below the surface.  The early story lines of the main four characters are all tied closely together, giving audiences a through-line to follow and stay engaged in the development of these characters over the course of a story that clocks in just short of 90 minutes.

“30 Minutes or Less” is a well written and well acted, good story, that’s well directed with a perfect blend of comedy and action… good cinematography and editing and a equally solid soundtrack.

While the action is probably well known from the trailers, the chemistry of the two pairs of main characters (Jesse Eisenberg’s ”Nick” and Aziz Ansari’s “Chet” plus Danny McBride’s “Dwayne” and Nick Swardson’s “Travis”) makes this a fun buddy comedy like the good ol’ buddy comedy movies of the 1980′s. 

But unlike a “Lethal Weapon” or “48 Hours” that rely on a lot of action, comedy is the real strength of “30 Minutes or Less” – with a machine gun rapid fire of humor with so many one-liners (many of them ad-libbed by the cast) that its hard to write them all down, let alone hear them all because audiences are still laughing from the last joke that you might miss the next one.

Eisenberg’s ”Nick” and Ansari’s “Chet” work well off of each other… perfectly cast as the nerdy guy in trouble and the loyal friend who is asked to risk his life and career to help out.    The almost sympathetic pair of wanna-be criminals McBride (Dwayne) and Swardson (Travis) are strangely endearing, despite their exploits, crudeness, bad language, creepiness, and laziness.  There’s also a palpable tension going on among the pairs and between “the good guys and the bad guys”.   The supporting cast really rounds out this movie with Fred Ward as Dwayne’s tough dad, Michael Peña’s gangster with flair, and Dilshad Vadsaria as Nick’s wannabe girlfriend.

While “30 Minutes or Less” has plenty of raunchy jokes, its also has plenty of high-brow jokes to keep you thinking and paying attention … it all plays out like a fun play put on by a comedy troupe with some high quality stunts involving chases, flamethrowers, and some gun play.

Ansari’s “Chet” gets many of the great lines in the movie, some you may have heard in the trailers and some I can’t actually repeat here in this G-rated review.   Eisenberg’s “Nick” does make a (tongue-in-cheek) reference to Facebook and his role in “The Social Network”last year: “You know I don’t check that –, I’m off the grid”.  Some of the funnier lines are parts of exchanges between Ansari and Eisenberg or McBride and Swardson…. like a failed, but funny attempt by Swardon’s “Travis” to use the wildly popular (and now often overused) “that’s what she said” line.  While its not a line, there’s also one of the most clever uses ever of a laser pointer.

You can also keep your eyes and ears open for a multitude of pop culture references that 30-somethings will really appreciate.  References to mix tapes, the Contra video game code, ”Heat is On”, the music group Fish, and more.  There’s also obvious references to these movies “Slumdog Millionaire”, “Pointe Break”, ”Hurt Locker”, “Aliens”, “Lethal Weapon”, “Die Hard”, “Friday the 13th”, and ”Chet”‘s diatribe on Netflix subscriptions that everyone can appreciate.

The production completely embraces the fact that this movie is made and set in Grand Rapids, Michigan – while they are not GRPD cruisers during the chase scene down Divison Avenue, the police cars say “Grand Rapids police” … “Chet” pokes fun at the perceived lack of diversity “there’s only four Indian families in Grand Rapids” … “Nick” makes reference to the fact that Grand Rapids doesn’t even have a Radisson, although in reality, we do have one downtown.   There are lots of camera shots and movements that showcase Grand Rapids… but also try to make it feel like a much smaller town than it really is.

Check out this post for more on how Grand Rapids figures prominently in the movie.

“Filmed in Pure Michigan” isn’t the only thing at the end of the credits…. again, its more goofy and R-rated, if you can handle it.  I was actually more excited to see the “Pure Michigan” and the thanks to residents of Grand Rapids and other local thanks and credits.