If Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera arm-wrestled, no one would win and daffodils would pop up from the table. This is actually my way of complimenting both actors. They do so well because they are easier to identify with than musclebound, machine gun-toting action stars.
Both actors thrive on their Beiberesque lack of traditional machismo, and the duo are engaged in an ongoing shadow rivalry to see who can be the biggest sap, weenie and pushover. Eisenberg holds serve with 30 Minutes or Less, his latest diary of a wimpy manchild.
Starring as a pizza delivery boy who’s captured by petty criminals, strapped with a vest bomb and forced to rob a bank, Eisenberg is more Jillinger than Dillinger. His character is a pathetic shell of a man who ducks and covers in a shell of extended adolescence as life plays cruel tricks on him. His passiveness and lazy ingenuity supplies the movie with its dainty charm and heart.
Tragically underused Aziz Ansari checks in as Eisenberg’s quote machine sidekick, seeming like a smarmy outcast from a 1990s Kevin Smith movie. Their tumultuous, Superbad-style codependency brims with unresolved angst from their teen years, forged with the undying bond that generates on dormroom-style couches between guys who watch all the Die Hards together.
The plight of Ansari, whom Eisenberg recruits to help him rob the bank, is bookmarked with the exploits of a parallel bromance between bullheaded moron Danny McBride and his submissive worshipper Nick Swardson. Think Stewart from Beavis and Butt-Head.
McBride, displaying the same trailer trash genius he flaunts in the HBO series Eastbound and Down, is bent on knocking off his domineering old man with a professional hitman, whom he plans to pay via the outsourced bank heist.
The plot is unapologetically stupid, and would be too idiotic to believe were it not for a 2003 tragedy which the movie mimics, despite the filmmakers’ likely lawyered-up insistence that it did not inspire their movie.
I’m glad 30 Minutes or Less isn’t based on the true story, because the more implausible the movie gets, the more enjoyable it is. Its laughs are hard and frequent, its action is breezy and energetic, and the casting is utterly perfect.
Your move, Cera.
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Dilshad Vadsaria, Bianca Kajlich and Michael Peña. Written by Michael Diliberti, based on a story by Matthew Sullivan and Diliberti. Directed by Ruben Fleischer. Rated R. 83 minutes.
Phil’s novel, Stormin’ Mormon, is available as a Kindle book for $1.