Watching previews for the new dark action comedy "30 Minutes or Less," you may feel like you need those 30 seconds of your life back. For the movie's editors, it must have been nearly impossible to capture the dark realism and acerbic wit that is the crux of the movie.
In previews, the beautiful action scenes and zany oneliners somehow fall flat. But in the full-length version, "30 Minutes or Less" is by far the summer's best cult action comedy. So pretend you're wearing an explosive vest (just like the film's main character Nick, played by Jesse Eisenberg), and make a beeline to the movie theater to catch this film (before you self-destruct).
"30 Minutes or Less" comes ripped from headlines -- past and present. In 2003, a middle-aged Pennsylvania pizza deliveryman named Brian Wells robbed a bank with a bomb locked to his neck. He claimed he was coerced into committing the crime. Before the bomb squad arrived on the scene, the device exploded and Wells was killed. A 2007 federal indictment alleged that Wells had been a co-conspirator in the robbery. And last week, in Sydney, Australia, 18-year-old Madeleine Pulver spent 10 terrifying hours with a suspected explosive device attached to her neck until the bomb squad removed it and determined it was a hoax.
Eisenberg is an actor in the right place at the right time in yet another film that, like "The Social Network," is so elegantly in the zeitgeist.
In "30 Minutes or Less," Eisenberg plays Nick, a 20-something pizza delivery guy who spends most of his time fighting with his ex-best friend, grade school teacher Chet (Aziz Ansari). One night Nick delivers a pizza to two lowlifes, Dwayne and Travis (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) who conspire to strap a time bomb vest to his chest and force him to rob a bank so that they'll have enough money to hire a hitman to kill Dwayne's father.
It is initially disconcerting to see Mark Zuckerberg, I mean Jesse Eisenberg, running around in a summer action movie with a bomb vest strapped to his chest. But any possible "Social Network" movie comparisons quickly disappear in Eisenberg's completely believable desperation to save his own life. Nick paces back and forth as he pants through an explanation of his predicament to Chet in a school hallway. You bite your nails wondering if the misguided small-town kid will make it.
The most serious scenes in "30 Minutes or Less" are interrupted by the best "that's what she said" modern riffs and spectacular yet somehow believable comic relief. Every moment of the pivotal bank robbery and car chase scenes brim with the perfect balance of slapstick and reference to iconic Hollywood heists and chases (think "Point Break" and "Lethal Weapon").
At the same time, the movie was shot in the tradition of those iconic action comedies. Director Ruben Fleischer told AbcNews.com, "I purposefully wanted [the car chase] to feel retro. I didn't do anything tricky ... and kind of used the same mounts and angles that they would have used in ... movies like 'Beverly Hills Cop' and 'Lethal Weapon.'"
Will "30 Minutes or Less" go down in history as one of the great action comedies, or will it self-destruct like so many others? Go see for yourself. "30 Minutes or Less" opens nationwide Friday, Aug. 12.