Film Friday: ’30 Minutes Or Less’ and ‘Final Destination 5’

by W. Andrew Powell

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in 30 Minutes or Less

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari in 30 Minutes or Less

Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari try to stay alive and rob a bank this weekend in the action-comedy, 30 Minutes Or Less; a new gang of pretty young 20-somethings take on death in the latest from the horror franchise, Final Destination 5; plus I take a look at The Help and Glee: The 3D Concert Movie.

30 Minutes Or Less
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Dilshad Vadsaria, Michael Peña, Bianca Kajlich, Fred Ward
Director: Ruben Fleischer

Rated: 6.5/10

“Art” imitates reality in this darkly comic action film–by Zombieland director Ruben Fleischer–which follows an ambitionless pizza delivery guy who is forced to rob a bank or risk being blown to bits thanks to the giant bomb that’s strapped to his chest.

Jesse Eisenberg stars as Nick, the aforementioned delivery guy who is in love with his best friend’s sister, but can’t own up to it until he realizes she’s going to move away from him. Across town, two low-life losers, Dwayne and Travis (played by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson), are plotting their slimy way to money and fame when they decide they could hire a hit man to kill Dwayne’s millionaire father. All the two need to do is find $100,000 to pay off the hit man, and that’s when they come up with the plan to strap a bomb to an unsuspecting person and have them do their dirty work for them.

Nick is that unfortunate guy, and after he’s told he only has ten hours to get the money, he enlists the help of his best friend Chet, played by the hilarious Aziz Ansari, and they quickly plan a bank heist that is obviously bound to end in mayhem.

Obviously inspired by the real-life events that told a similar tale back in 2003, 30 Minutes Or Less is an action-infused comedy that also owes some inspiration to the Lethal Weapon films, which is actually hinted at early in the movie.

Comparisons to Pineapple Express would be hard to ignore, and the film shares more than a little in common with a lot of recent action-comedies, but 30 Minutes Or Less is far funnier and more entertaining than any of those films, even if it falters elsewhere.

For a film about someone who might die at any minute, 30 Minutes Or Less wrings every drop of comedy out of the situation with a script that has some great zingers that had me laughing all the way through. Ansari is by far the funniest thing about the film though, with loose, wild, and hilarious off-the-cuff lines that seem to come out of nowhere.

I also really enjoyed the relationships between the two sets of buddies in the film; Nick and Chet, plus Dwayne and Travis. The writing may not be all that hot, but both acting duos come off like real buddies.

My problems with 30 Minutes Or Less are hard to ignore though, despite the buddies and the jokes.

For one thing, I don’t actually think Danny McBride is funny, and he’s particularly unfunny in this film where his dialogue consist of moderately raunchy one-liners that are meant for a miniscule level of shock value. I didn’t actually find the bad-guy duo to be very interesting at all, and they just slowed the film down in the midst of their terrible dialogue.

Eisenberg’s frantic “I’m going to die” routine was also far too annoying over the course of the film, and felt really tiresome by the third or fourth scene. He is a good lead, but the direction from Fleischer focuses almost too much on the dread and fear, and not enough on establishing a stronger plot other than: run for it!

Fleischer does a lot right with 30 Minutes Or less, and I admire the mix of dark and light, but the film is hardly as good as Zombieland. I would still recommend it, if you can forgive McBride’s performance, but it’s more likely a rental or something you can catch at home on demand in a few months.

Final Destination 5
Starring: Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, P.J. Byrne, Ellen Wroe
Director: Steven Quale

In the fifth instalment of the never-die Final Destination franchise, yet another group of young photogenic people are facing off against death after they avoid their fate when a bridge collapses.

Going against the previous grain of jokey catastrophes, which made the third and fourth films nearly unwatchable, director Steven Quale has suggested he tried to take Final Destination 5 back to its roots as a grim action film with occasional comic elements.

The fact is though, the critics are still not all that impressed with the latest film in the franchise.

“To borrow from TV terminology,” wrote Kirk Honeycutt for the Hollywood Reporter, “the series hasn’t jumped the shark yet, but the strain of inventing bizarre deaths is beginning to show.”

Joe Leydon of Variety also wrote, with a bit more of a positive spin, “Constrained by a formula as restrictive as the elements that define haiku or iambic pentameter, scripter Eric Heisserer and first-time feature helmer Steven Quale nevertheless generate a respectable amount of suspense in Final Destination 5.”

Also opening this weekend…

The Help
Starring: Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia L. Spencer, Jessica Chastain, Ahna O’Reilly
Director: Tate Taylor

In director Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel, Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer star as Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny, three women with a unique friendship that crosses unfortunate social barriers.

Set in the 1960s, Skeeter decides to write a book from the viewpoint of herself, her friend and Aibileen, an African-American maid, just to show society what they may not even realize about the people who work for them.

The Help has earned positive reviews from many critics, even as others have slammed it for taking an unrealistic view of the 1960s racial strife.

“The Help brings a chick-flick sensibility to a serious subject,” wrote Rafer Guzman for Newsday, “which is more daring than it might sound. It’s also incredibly refreshing.”

But Rick Groen of the Globe and Mail wrote, “Now comes the inevitable movie, which, in the hands of writer/director Tate Taylor, does a novel about injustice an injustice itself: It turns lite into featherweight.”

Glee: The 3D Concert Movie
Starring: Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Darren Criss, Kevin McHale,
Director: Kevin Tancharoen

Lastly, if you need a good dose of Glee, you can prove yourself as a true Gleek by checking out the 3D concert film that features all the key characters from the show.

Liam Lacey of the Globe and Mail wrote of the film “A high-school talent show, no doubt, but, at its best, well worth glorifying.”

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