"30 Brain-cells or Less"
30 Minutes or Less is the latest film from director Ruben Fleischer, who had previously been in charge of the movie Zombieland (which was fresh, funny and smart) and I think that in the current movie climate, as damp and soggy (and derivative) as it is, that we might want to re-think the auteur theory—the critical bon mot from the 1950's era Cahiers du Cinema crowd that the director is the true "author" of a film, despite it, by necessity, being a collaborative medium. You can make a case for it with some—Hitchcock, Kubrick, Welles, Hawks, Ford, Capra, Leone, Fellini, Scorsese, Kurosawa, Spielberg, Woo, Mallick...Michael Bay, Lars von Trier (hmmm).
Well, for good or ill you can make the case.
Mr. Mason, your witness. "Call to the stand, Ruben Fleischer..." (and the prosecution then puts its head in its hands).
"Move to dismiss..."
As I said, I liked Zombieland (which, although it had moments when it dragged, was a hilarious take on zombie-movie traditions). But, I despise to the core of my critical thinking 30 Minutes or Less. And it shakes my faith, because the guy who brought so much to the former brings nothing to the latter, not even the smarts to know when something's not working and, in so realizing, makes the attempt to change it. That's what direction is all about, isn't it? There are the ocassional stylistic fluorishes—liked the pan up from headlights of both the protagonists and antagonists linking the two, and a fire-flash of seriousness there towards the end—but, for goodness sake, scene after scene of this nightmare falls as flat as a two hours old pizza (thin crust), bereft of story sense or any humor, other than a chain-link of easy crudities and a nasty streak of hooting at the flailings of the morons on display.
The plot—such as it is—involves slacker Nick (Jesse Eisenberg, looking a bit lost but doing so at 90 mph), a pizza-delivery boy, who, despite driving like a maniac, seems incapable of delivering a pizza on time. He crosses paths with two even slacker bone-heads (Danny McBride, Nick Swardson—evidently the next big star of terrible films), who claim to be entrepreneurs—although they seem to have trouble pronouncing the word—even though they have no business sense, no ideas on how to make money—other than cleaning the pool of the lottery-winner-father of the former (Fred Ward, you should be ashamed), and could be considered troglodytes if only they had a hint of hunter-gatherer skills. They decide to raise $100 grand to hire a hit-man (Michael Peña) to kill off said father—their only means of support—by robbing a bank, or rather forcing someone else to rob a bank by attaching a time-bomb to them, the not-agreed-to heist to be completed before bomb and bearer go boom. At least, their characterizations are consistent—they don't want to take responsibility for anything or for doing anything. they should probably re-think starting a tanning business and going into politics.
This is where Nick comes in. He delivers a pizza to the slackers, they drug him and attach the bomb while he's "out." In a panic, he must (for once) be on time, or he's dead. He recruits his pal Chet (Aziz Ansari) to help in the robbery, but, even though they get away with the money, it's a botch-job (no doubt inspired by the making of this picture), then comes the inevitable complications over the money hand-off and a resolution of sorts...lots of explosions that we are to believe people survive, as if this were some kind of Road-Runner cartoon (except those are entertaining).
The whole thing has a slap-dash feel to it, with a lot of ad-libbing between McBride and Swarsdon that comes off as "'Off'-Night at the Improv." The thing is totally devoid of wit and is just a string of sketch comedy riffs held together by the robbery plot. It's a movie best seen drunk or stoned or sleeping. After bearing with the thing for 45 minutes, I chose the latter.
Here's the thing—a variation on this really happened: On August 28th, 2003, a bank in Erie Pennsylvania was robbed by Brian Douglas Wells, a pizza delivery man, who was abducted and a bomb placed around his neck. Wells pleaded with everyone during the bank heist that he was doing it against his will and begged to get the bomb off him. Unfortunately for Wells, the bomb squad showed up four minutes after the device exploded, killing him instantly. Now, just imagine the brainstoming session between the script-writers where someone relates this horrible crime (it was attempted a couple weeks ago in Australia, as well) and said "This would make a great comedy!" ("Laugh? I thought I'd die!")
According to Wikipedia's entry on the movie, the scriptwriters, Michael Diliberti—his first screenplay after being an assistant to producer Scott Rudin—and Matthew Sullivan claim that they were only "vaguely aware" of it. "Vaguely aware" are the perfect words, I think. It seems that was the state in which the whole movie was developed and made. It's a bad idea for a movie, badly made. And now, in a moment of justice, Fleischer, Diliberti and Sullivan have their own "bomb" tied around their necks.
And they're going to have to carry it around for a very long time.
30 Minutes or Less is a Waste of Time.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
30 Minutes or Less