In the dark and often very funny “30 Minutes or Less,” two dirtbags strap a bomb to a pizza-delivery guy’s chest and tell him to rob a bank on their behalf or they’ll blow him up. The lead dirtbag is Dwayne, played by Danny McBride, moviedom’s reigning king of belligerent trailer trash. His sidekick, explosives hobbyist Travis, is played by Nick Swardson. Both men have awful mustaches perched above their dirty, dirty mouths. You can just LOOK at them and know exactly what type of characters they are.
Dwayne and Travis either make you laugh, or they don’t — and if they don’t, there’s no other reason to like them. This black comedy, directed by “Zombieland’s” Ruben Fleischer and written by first-timer Michael Diliberti, avoids any attempt to humanize the characters, as doing so would make the morbid reality of the premise settle in, and our fun would be ruined. So if you are suffering from Danny McBride fatigue, especially considering he plays the exact same profane loudmouth every single time … well, this is more of the same.
But you’re probably not suffering from Aziz Ansari fatigue yet, and he’s here too! The adorably exuberant li’l fellow, best known as Tom Haverford on TV’s “Parks and Recreation,” plays Chet, the best friend of the hapless pizza guy. The pizza guy, Nick, is played by Jesse Eisenberg, a nervous sort even when there isn’t a bomb strapped to his chest. He’s the protagonist, but he’s also the straight man and potential victim, so he isn’t written as a particularly funny or memorable character. Chet must help his pal in this time of crisis, and Ansari’s delivery — a mixture of comical panic, reluctant selflessness, and petty complaining — is infectiously entertaining.
Fleischer occasionally lets the humor get a little too dark. Someone suffers a nonlethal but bloody gunshot wound in one scene, and among the many witnesses is a little girl, who screams in realistic, non-comic terror. That’s just about the only time in the movie that Fleischer makes us view things the way they would be viewed in real life, and it stands in awkward contrast to the light-treatment-of-dark-things attitude on display elsewhere.
Nonetheless, Fleischer keeps things moving at a brisk pace. The film is 82 minutes long, including the credits and a throwaway post-credits scene, and it absolutely shouldn’t have been any longer. The story is satisfyingly tight, with an emphasis on action rather than dithering. I also enjoyed Fred Ward as Dwayne’s ex-military jerk of a father and Michael Peña as a loopy, dangerous professional hitman.
Nobody here is especially likable or sincere, which suits the film’s tone just fine. But they aren’t quite despicable, either, which is what they’d need to be for the movie to completely succeed as a “horrible idiots getting into trouble” comedy. As R-rated comedies go, this one is modestly enjoyable but unremarkable, liable to be forgotten in, oh, say, a half hour or so.
B- (1 hr., 22 min.; )