30 Minutes or Less
Columbia/Tri-Star // R // $35.99 // November 29, 2011
Review by Adam Tyner | posted November 23, 2011
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
Wait, wait...I got it: "30 Minutes or Less delivers!" Can you print that on the cover, Sony? There's still time, right?

While we wait to hear back about my way-too-late and not-that-clever stab at blurb whoredom, I guess I can say something a little more meaningful about 30 Minutes or Less. Hey, you know what sucks more than tooling around in a shitbox '89 Mustang and schlepping around pizzas for minimum wage? Being handed a delivery on the ass-end of town right when you're supposed to be heading home for the night, getting
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fjumped by a pair of nutjobs in monkey masks, and then waking up with a couple pounds of C4 strapped to your chest. I know! Hate it when that happens. Anyway, Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), who was already kind of in the middle of the worst day ever, is quickly given his marching orders. Either he pulls a bank heist to score his kidnappers a hundred grand, or Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) trigger that remote detonator. Talk to the cops...? Boom! Don't deliver the money in time...? Boom! Try to slip that super-booby-trapped vest off somehow...? Boom! Whatever you thought I was going to say next...? Boom! I know that sounds harsh, but Dwayne really, really wants to open a tanning salon as a front for his dream brothel, and if he's gonna get what's left of his raging asshole pop's Lotto winnings, the guy's gotta pay the hitman somehow. ...but hey! At least Nick's not in it alone. He still has his best friend -- kind of -- Chet (Aziz Ansari) as his partner in crime. The clock's ticking, they've got a bank to knock over, and I haven't even gotten to the part about the car chases and flamethrower and shootouts an' stuff.

In one of the extras on this Blu-ray disc, the cast and crew of 30 Minutes or Less hem and haw about how to describe the movie, and you get a lot of stuff like "well...it's kind of an action-comedy?" Hearing that made me smirk because that was pretty much my kneejerk reaction to the flick too: there's not really an easy, lazy way to sum up 30 Minutes or Less in a couple of words. Ruben Fleischer showed off his prowess with mashing together genres and swinging huge tonal shifts in Zombieland, and he does it even more brilliantly in his sophomore stint as a director. It's a hard movie to pin down, and that's more than a little bit of what I love so much about it. Rather than cast some goofy, bug-eyed comedian in the lead, 30 Minutes or Less stars Jesse Eisenberg, and his performance is quiet, intense, and accomplished. He's not mugging for laughs; he's acting. You could watch a big chunk of the first act of the flick and not even clue in that it's supposed to be a comedy, with as dark and depressing as it gets...but then you get stuff like Danny McBride and Nick Swardson riffing about the codewords they'll use as their tanning salon-slash-brothel, like a blowjob from a black chick being covertly called a "Tanny Glover". You're duped into thinking those guys are harmless dipshits who've deluded themselves into thinking they're badasses, and yet when they put on those ape
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masks and chase Nick down, it's intense and genuinely disturbing. Sharp acting steamrolling right into absurdity. Dumpy dumbasses coming across as credible threats. What seems like some kind of dour indie character piece shifting gears into a high-speed car chase with that song from Beverly Hills Cop blaring in the background.

30 Minutes or Less is all over the place, but the movie makes those drastic tonal shifts feel shockingly seamless, and just...everything about it connected with me. The funny parts are funny, the exciting parts are exciting, and the dramatic parts are dramatic, so...yeah, mission accomplished there. It sure doesn't hurt that 30 Minutes or Less is pretty much perfectly cast too, with most of the laughs feeling like they're coming from these characters...these actors...rather than just parroting something in a comedy-by-committee screenplay. 30 Minutes or Less is about as brilliantly paced a movie as I've ever stumbled across, with its seventy-something minute runtime (minus credits) coming in stark contrast to the bloated more-is-more mentality that's kind of been overtaking comedies over the past few years. There's not a single scene in here that overstays its welcome, and it moves along so sleekly and swiftly that it feels like the entire length of the film could've been...um, thirty minutes or less. The movie hardly ever does anything really obvious, and its manic pace and constant tonal shifts keep it feeling elusive in the best possible way. I like not knowing what'll happen next. 30 Minutes or Less has admittedly scored really mixed reviews, and a lot of those writers have griped about how jarring those shifts can be. I can see why some people might feel that way, but all of that completely worked for me, in the same way that two different notes played together the right way can form a chord. Yeah, I was going to say how peanut butter and chocolate are very different things that combine together to make Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but I think I like the chord thing better. I guess it all comes down to going in with the right expectations. If you're thinking 30 Minutes or Less is gonna be some manic, cartoonish Pineapple Express II sort of deal, then...well, no. Has its moments like that, sure, but that's only part of the story. Honestly, I don't have some "if you liked ______, you'll love 30 Minutes or Less!" line to close this all out. The sum of its parts doesn't feel like anything I've seen, exactly, and in an era of endless remakes, sequels, and knockoffs, that's something to really be excited about...'specially when it's done this well. So, yeah: your mileage may vary, but my vote reads something like Highly Recommended.


Video
30 Minutes or Less looks pretty much perfect in high-def. Jess Hall's cinematography is rocking an impressively sleek,
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smooth texture, and the image is superhumanly sharp and detailed throughout. 30 Minutes or Less is so silky smooth and absurdly crisp that I figured it had to have been shot digitally, but...no, those are 35mm cameras whirring away in the behind-the-scenes stuff, and that whole thing is briefly a topic of discussion in the commentary too. Even better, there's no trace of any awkward filtering or processing to make 30 Minutes or Less look so sparklingly clean. As you'd probably expect for a movie fresh out of the oven, there aren't any signs of wear or damage either, and the bitrate's kept high enough to stave off any hiccups in the compression. What else is on the laundry list? Oh...yeah, colors are nicely saturated throughout, with its palette skewing more towards what you'd expect out of a drama rather than a traditional comedy or action flick. Contrast remains rock solid as well, never wavering even under the very limited light in the climax. Film grain doesn't spike in those more challenging stretches either, and really, it's completely unintrusive throughout. So, yeah, I really don't have anything to gripe about at all...pretty spectacular work all around.

Technical stuff! The AVC encode on 30 Minutes or Less gets to lounge around on a dual-layer Blu-ray disc, and its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 is totally present and accounted for.


Audio
Well, I'll say this: Glenn Frey's "The Heat Is On" never sounded as badass as it does on this shiny, new Blu-ray disc. Really, 30 Minutes or Less is packing a pretty impressive lossless soundtrack, doing the whole 24-bit, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 deal. It probably goes without saying that the movie sounds its best during the highish-octane action stuff, with cars careening around at breakneck speeds all over the soundscape and a couple of megaton explosions belching from the subwoofer. Even throughout its lower-key stretches, 30 Minutes or Less still manages to sound great, with the music scattered throughout the movie bolstered by a hefty low-end along with atmosphere like clinking plates in the background during that triumphant victory taco sequence. The film's dialogue is consistently rendered cleanly and clearly, never struggling in the mix even with as batshit as things can get. The sound design complements 30 Minutes or Less about as perfectly as I could hope to hear, and again, I'm not left with much of anything to complain about or criticize this time around.

30 Minutes or Less serves up a second DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack in French as well as a descriptive video service track. While it's at it, this Blu-ray disc also piles on subtitles in English (traditional and SDH), French, and Spanish.


Extras
  • Outtakes (6 min.; HD): Three scenes do the whole line-o-rama thing on this Blu-ray disc, with more of Travis in complete awe of the Major's cock diesel abs, Chet rattling off way worse ways to die than a vestful of plastic explosives, and more of Dwayne's tanning-slash-prostitution codewords. If you're pressed for time or whatever and can't tear into it all, the Aziz stuff is pretty much wall-to-wall gold.

  • Deleted Scenes (12 min.; HD): Ten scenes. Twelve minutes. You're lookin' at more with Brett Gelman as Nick's racist asshole boss, a Firebird dream sequence, Nick coming even closer to blowing up a gaggle of little kids, a...um, super-steamy sex scene, and a couple aftermathy type bits that I like but don't really gel with the overall tone of the movie. The full TV spot for Vito's Pizza is tossed on at the end, by the way.

  • Blowing Up with the Crew of 30 Minutes or Less (14 min.; HD): Featurette numero one-oh is a pretty straightforward casting featurette. There's a
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    little meat on the bone -- lining up a bunch of comedians who can actually act, the sheer volume of improv, and that sort of thing -- but it's mostly just fifteen minutes or so of the cast and crew marveling about how amazingly talented everyone is. I mean, yeah, I agree and all, but I have to admit to not getting much outta this one.

  • The Perfect Crime: Action and Comedy in 30 Minutes or Less (11 min.; HD): ...and this Blu-ray disc's second featurette is more of a traditional behind-the-scenes piece. "The Perfect Crime" starts by chatting about how all those very different tones collide head-on into one another, and it's also mentioned how Grand Rapids gave the flick plenty of room to tear shit up. The bulk of this featurette is, not surprisingly, dedicated to making of the bigger action sequences. Worth a look.

  • Video Commentary: I know, I know...I'm building up to it. The centerpiece of the extras on 30 Minutes or Less is a picture-in-picture video commentary with Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, and director Ruben Fleischer. It's kind of relaxed and quippy. I mean, with a roomful of comedians, you'd expect this track to be pretty funny, and...hey! it is. Because at least a couple of these guys either hadn't actually seen 30 Minutes or Less at all or had maybe watched it once, sometimes this commentary gets caught in that trap where they just lean back and watch, but that's not too much of a drag. Having video to go along with it -- nicely shot and edited too -- makes it seem a lot more interesting than just-another-commentary too, especially since I can look on in awe as Aziz literally slaps his knees at all those kneeslappers. There are a bunch of really great stories scattered around here too, such as how the 30 Minutes or Less crew is directly responsible for Grand Rapids' newest strip club, trashing a completely mint '89 Mustang for the purposes of art, explaining what the deal was with that kinda/sorta romantic dinner scene, and Fleischer mentioning the very different relationship he had bobbing around in his head for Nick and Kate. Kind of like the movie itself, if you're expecting something really big and unrelentingly energetic out of this commentary, you might walk away disappointed, but I personally really dug it.

The Final Word
Reviews for 30 Minutes or Less have been really mixed, and...sure, I get it. There are high-speed car chases, a bank robbery, shootouts, and even a flamethrower (!), but it's not really an action flick. A lot of the laughs come from quick, throwaway lines rather than deliriously over-the-top comic setpieces, and the movie gets so dark that anyone waltzing in expecting a laff-a-minute comedy will probably walk away disappointed. That's a huge part of what I love so much about 30 Minutes or Less, though: the way genuine drama plows straight into absurdity...the emphasis on impressively engaging characters and sharp writing over standard issue formulas...just how surprising and unique it is at pretty much every turn. This doesn't feel like a movie I've seen before, and...hell, I don't even know what a good point of reference would be. Director Ruben Fleischer juggles a bunch of very different tones that could tumble down and go nightmarishly wrong at any point, but he somehow pulls it off beautifully. Add in an impressively sleek pace -- I mean, this flick moves -- and a ridiculously talented cast, and I guess Sony's got my twenty bucks. 30 Minutes or Less definitely isn't gonna be to everyone's tastes, but I'm pretty sure I mean that as a compliment. Highly Recommended.


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