Film Review: 30 Minutes Or Less (2011)

on Monday, September 19, 2011
'30 Minutes Or Less' (UK Release: 16 Sept '11) // Words: Saam Das

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in 30 Minutes Or Less

Ruben Fleischer's directorial debut 'Zombieland' was a welcome, witty take on the horror sub-genre and he's once again teamed up with Jesse Eisenberg for his second feature film, '30 Minutes Or Less'. To say that this action comedy has dubious origins would seriously fail to note the significance of the events that loosely inspired the film.

I wasn't aware of the real-life scenario (which '30 Minutes Or Less' is clearly based on) before watching the film. The more I read, the more uneasy I feel. While '30 Minutes Or Less' might be something of a gloriously silly comedy film, it mirrors a gripping story - but one that ended in death.

Back in 2003, a pizza delivery man in America walked into a bank and passed the bank cashier a note instructing them to give him $250,000. He then moved his shirt slightly to show a bomb attached to his collar. The man was given $8,702 and made his getaway. Except he was caught by state troopers. The man claimed that the bomb had been attached to him against his will and he had been forced to rob the bank. Minutes later, the bomb went off.

The plot similarities are all too blatant, and hence extremely questionable. In this film, Eisenberg is the pizza delivery man who finds himself with a bomb strapped to his chest and the demand to rob $100,000 from a bank by the pantomime villain duo of Danny McBride and Nick Swardson - who need the money to hire a hitman (Michael Pena) to kill McBride's father for a bumper inheritance.

Unlike the unfortunate reality, Eisenberg has help - in the form of his flatmate Aziz Ansari. The duo have a love-hate relationship, exacerbated by the revelation that Eisenberg's unexpected revelation that he is in love with Dilshad Vadsaria, the sister of Ansari's character. But much like the Swardson and McBride relationship, it's more love than hate.

This isn't an action-comedy along the lines of a 'Beverly Hills Cop', which happily embraced the dramatic elements in a serious manner - '30 Minutes Or Less' is more evocative of a romp like 'Pinesapple Express'. The action is often over-the-top and stylised but that provides a nice contrast to the humour, which is largely conversational.

Ansari and Pena, in particular, command several guffaws - albeit spread rather inconsistently over the hour and half runtime. Yet I can't seem to shake my unease over the 2003 collarbomb incident. Enjoying '30 Minutes Or Less' is pretty much like that time when you ate a whole bag of sweets and then felt really, really bad afterwards.

I feel guilt. Although not nausea, thankfully. But it's still a shame, because I was entertained by '30 Minutes Or Less' - it's the type of popcorn film that we all need to see from time to time. Maybe I need to embrace the escapist nature of cinema more.


'30 Minutes Or Less' is on wide release in UK cinemas. Read more about the 2003 bomb incident at

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