Two fledgling criminals (McBride and Swardson) kidnap a pizza delivery guy (Eisenberg), strap a bomb to his chest, and inform him that he has 30 minutes to rob a bank or he'll blow up.
"30 Minutes or Less" is the movie which dares to ask the question, will the idiot man-child character ever grow old? The answer is yes. Yes it will.
If there's one thing you'll take from "30 Minutes or Less" it's that the world is full of losers, which I suppose is no great revelation. Some of them are harmless like Nick (Jesse Eisenberg), a 20-something pizza delivery boy who doesn't have enough drive to be anything else even though he actively despises his job and his life. Some of them aren't so harmless, like spoiled brat Dwayne (Danny McBride) who wants to waste to his life entertaining himself by blowing up watermelons with his best friend (Nick Swardson), and if he's got to kill his dad (Fred Ward) to do it, then so be it.
As a rule of thumb a comedy has to have some real bite to it to be funny, and if there's one thing "30 Minutes" is good at, it's having bite. There are no set ups too dark for the film to follow through to its logically absurd conclusion, and then some. When you base the premise of your film off an old story about a bank robber who put a bomb on himself and claimed he was forced to rob the bank, dark is pretty much your only choice.
Dwayne is just smart enough to realize he needs to keep himself as far away from his father's murder as he can. He's not smart enough to realize the answer to that problem is not hiring a local stripper's hitman boyfriend to do the job. Nor does he realize that kidnapping a complete stranger, strapping a bomb to him on a timer and forcing him to rob a bank in order to get the money to pay the hitman is also a bad idea.
The film doesn't really have any idea what to do with that premise, which becomes particularly obvious the second time it stops dead to allow McBride time to indulge in some of his patented macho-moron mugging. For a movie that is barely more than 80 minutes with credits, it is padded so thick your attention will bounce off it.
Ostensibly, "30 Minutes" is a film about the bonds of friendship, comparing and contrasting Nick and best friend Chet's (Aziz Ansari) misadventures in trying to obtain the money and Nick's freedom with Dwayne and Travis' attempts to keep the plan on track. Neither their group is particularly bright but they stick by each other through thick and thin, despite the fact they're probably just making things worse.
The film itself is much like that. It has good intentions but it doesn't have any idea what to do with its premise. Director Ruben Fleischer ("Zombieland") has filled it with good comics who are either wasted or over used. Worst off, as good an actor as Eisenberg is, Nick doesn't play into any of those strengths and he tends to come off as stilted and unconvincing.
A stoner comedy gone wrong, "30 Minutes or Less" is an example of wasted effort all round. It should be funny, and occasionally it is, but mostly it's dull.