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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, July 30, 2014

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Readers Blog: Schmoo On The Movies

30 Seconds or Less More than Decent

3783-30minutesorlessfilmimage

I don't know why this film is catching the flack that it is. Sure, it's not fantastic and it's no Zombieland (director Ruben Fleischer previous film), but it's also not unbearable and it succeeds where so many comedies fail - it's actually funny.

30 Minutes is uneven, yes, but I think that's a result of its attempt at being unique. The bulk of the film is centered on Eisenberg and Ansari's characters, but a sizable portion is also spent getting into the heads of antagonists Danny McBride and Nick Swardson. This might have seemed like an unsavory prospect to me as I'm not really a fan of either man's brand of humor, but, ultimately, they won the uphill battle and made me laugh. Their situation is so outlandish and their ideas so ill-conceived that it can't help but be funny. However, in the end, there's a definite lack of clarity as to how we should feel for the characters and this stems from the film either ending too early or too late. So, what I mean to say is: there should have either been more about these characters in the final act or less. (Supposedly there's a minor clip after the credits that I didn't stay for that might have made me feel somewhat differently)

As for the primary protagonists, Eisenberg and Ansari are solid. People like to give the former a hard time for seemingly playing the same character over the course of many films. I understand why people might think that, but I see subtleties to his performances that make each distinct. He definitely has a specific style, but he plays a character here that I haven't seen him play before. In 30 Minutes, he plays more of an aimless slacker than he ever has and does just fine at it. Ansari plays his partner in crime; the straight-man necessary to complement Eisenberg's loser character. He also performs admirably. However, this role is somewhat foreign to him as well as he's typically the odd-ball (see "Parks and Rec"s Tom Haverford). I'm not saying that I would have preferred him just reprising his "Parks and Rec" role, but it's apparent that he's funnier when allowed to cut loose a little more.

30 Minutes or Less is sometimes unnecessarily vulgar, the jokes don't always hit their mark, and the plot is a tad out there, but it's solid. Any misgivings I might have with it are severely mollified by the presence of the beloved Michael Pena. An accomplished actor in his own right, Pena also possesses a mastery of unique characters - in this case a friendly, but oft-maligned hitman. His character has some of the best lines in the film and his scene with Fred Ward is pure gold.

B

P.S. Those monkey masks are f'ing creepy and a nice touch.

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