'30 Minutes or Less' is a brisk, darkly funny romp.


Remember when Domino's had that catchy 30-minutes-or-less guarantee, but it backfired because drivers sped right into accidents trying to make that deadline? The opening moments of "30 Minutes or Less," a frantic and mostly fun heist comedy, reminds America why that was such a terrible idea. Jesse Eisenberg, far from his role as Facebook billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, is a pizza delivery guy named Nick getting every last horse's power out of a cruddy Ford on the way to handing two conniving teens their barely-late pizza for free. It amounts to a one-car car chase, and it's important, even though it depicts a scenario that led to real tragedy, because it establishes Nick as a clever, downtrodden speed demon. This will become relevant later when two lowlifes named Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson) kidnap him on a pizza delivery, rig a bomb to his torso and force him to rob a bank for them. As crappy as Nick's life seems at the outset, it will only get worse.

Now, remember the pizza delivery guy in Pennsylvania who died when he was rigged with a bomb and forced to rob a bank? That was back in 2003, and the man's name was Brian Wells; if you go web-spelunking, look for the Wired story about that awful case, which ended with the bomb killing Wells. If you know nothing about this case, then the setup for "30 Minutes" will seem fresh and darkly funny. But now you do, and you'll be forced to watch an otherwise amusing comedy knowing that it's based on true, disturbing events.

Tainted though they are, the laughs that follow owe mostly to casting and chemistry. The panicky, put-upon Nick is a great foil both for his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) and for the sinister burnout Dwayne. You can either take McBride or leave him — he's too distinct and too raw to waffle over — but if you're a McBride fan, you'll appreciate him in this role, as vulgar and entitled as Kenny Powers minus the talent or any redeeming sentiment whatsoever, so angry at his lottery-winning ex-Marine father (Fred Ward) that he's willing to pay an assassin to whack the old man. ("Eastbound & Down" fans will also recognize Michael Pena, who's equally ferocious and tart here as the assassin.) Both Ansari and McBride thrive, in very different ways, on the humor of the literal, explaining their every emotion and thought with such immediacy and in such detail that their openness takes on its own deeper grades of irony. They're both comedians for their time; putting them in the same cast only highlights their unlikely similarities.

But don't get too attached: The running time of "30 Minutes" is barely over that, at 83 minutes, which is a brevity usually reserved for movies the studios expect to, uh, bomb. It's a brisk run, though, constant action and dialogue that barely takes a breath. Director Reuben Fleischer ("Zombieland") brings the sensibility of his "Funny or Die" web shorts to the pacing; there's no time for silence or reflection. The pizza is due now. The bomb is ticking. The movie is over. Stick around for the end credits, by the way, but don't worry about coming in after the show is supposed to start: There's a criminal number of previews before this one, meaning you can actually arrive really, really late and still be just fine.



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