Hey, it’s BlockBluster, our seasonal feature in which Benjamin Sutton and Henry Stewart find out during what sorts of movies regular people all over the country are waiting for their pizzas to be delivered. This week they ask 30 minutes or Less director Ruben Fleischer for their time back.
Hey, Henry, didn’t this just happen to a girl in Australia? Gee, Sony is getting really aggressive with its viral marketing. In 30 Minutes or Less loser pizza delivery boy Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) gets outfitted with a bomb vest by two even bigger losers (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) who force him to rob a bank so they can pay an assassin to kill McBride’s father (Fred Ward), a veteran who won the lottery. This “asshole son trying to beat his rich asshole father” scenario reminded me of Billy Madison, except 30 Minutes is so bad that it makes Adam Sandler chasing penguin hallucinations look like Michael Corleone taking the reigns from Don Vito. But before we address how haphazardly this movie was assembled we should mention its condescending portrayal of war vets. Ward’s cruel patriarch, known only as The Major, shows no signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, but cites the many men he killed in battle; the scarcity of veteran benefits doesn’t bother him because he won $10 million and has spent most of it on extravagant symbols of his military pride—an enormous SUV emblazoned with an eagle-and-flag decal, a poolside monument to fallen soldiers. Henry, what other systemically slighted groups does 30 Minutes kick while they’re down.
Ben, The Major doesn’t cite the many “men” he killed—he cites the many “gooks” he killed in ‘Nam, a tossed-off epithet (surely included for its realism, so realistic is this preposterous would-be comedy) that calls attention to the movie’s careless racial attitudes. Nick and his partner-in-coerced-crime, Chet (Aziz Ansari)—an Indian who mentions how his brown skin makes him stand out in Grand Rapids, though he and his twin sister are the only characters we meet with decent jobs—rob a bank while pretending to be “Hispanics” recently escaped from prison; McBride‘s character’s defective gun was made functional by paying “a Mexican 50 bucks.” And when a Latino character does finally show up, he’s some awful gangbanging caricature—painfully unfunny. Hey, did you notice also that the movie’s scored to a perfunctory hip hop soundtrack? Which reflects the shallow, racist, white-boy attitudinizing pervading this vapid shit? Is this just a movie about white guys and other privileged types having a crazy time by trying on the signifiers of a minority underclass?
Don’t forget the part when McBride and his accomplice don gorilla masks, trying on the signifiers of a whole oppressed species. Otherwise, I thought that those two painfully unfunny characters at least inhabited their working-classness to the fullest. To get away from his father and the absurd mansion they share, Dwayne (McBride) hangs out at a scrap metal yard; The Major drives a fleet of gaudily decorated SUVs, but Dwayne prefers a beat-up minivan. It ain’t pretty, but at least it’s honest. And speaking of cars, wasn’t this film—which is set in auto manufacturing hub Grand Rapids—kind of like one long ad for American cars? It opens with a slow-motion shot of Nick’s Mustang gliding over the camera; a big deal is made about the neighbor’s vintage muscle car that they steal for the bank robbery; The Major apparently collects gas guzzlers. I guess as American men our one unifying trait crossing all barriers of race, class and culture is our love of cars. It’s certainly not our love of women, Henry, because this movie hates women with a (nearly) unmatched passion.
Oh my goodness, Ben, remember when that one lady, the stripper, reveals and then fondles her breasts when McBride brings up his potential $1 million inheritance? Because the very mention of money makes ladies’ nipples hard? This movie is so full of unfunny misogyny and racist cliches! But maybe its characters aren’t trying on the signifiers of a minority underclass—maybe they’re just trying on action-movie cliches. If you think about it, this is like a terrible, tone-deaf Hot Fuzz, with its characters’ reverence for action movies (for movie night, Nick rents Lethal Weapons I & II). They construct their lives around them; the whole ludicrous plot is based around that genre’s tropes (hired assassins, car chases, bank robberies, etc.) But 30 Minutes doesn’t send them up—it embraces them, then just crowds them with labored one-liners.