Years ago I had the opportunity to be a pizza delivery gal. A freelance journalist who specialized in celebrity interviews, I had moved out of New York to care for my aging mother in her hometown, Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. There were few celebrities in Plymouth Meeting, and so I had to earn an income quickly. One day I had the idea to apply at Domino’s.
Friends laughed at my idea, but I was hired on the spot. I enjoyed my work and being around young people half my age, and who welcomed me as an equal. I also enjoyed delivering in the rain, snow, heat and sleet. The elements stimulated me.
Subsequently I worked at Pizza Hut and Papa John’s, but Domino’s remained my favorite. (It had the best pizza.) I was never afraid, though I was held up once for my pizzas, and two of my friends were held up at gunpoint. After that we were not allowed to carry more than $20 on us to deter robbers, as time was important. Our manager kept a record of our times (he consulted a stopwatch), and I am proud to say one month I came in second out of ten drivers.
But we would never have made a delivery to an abandoned factory like the driver does in “30 Minutes or Less” — this was asking for trouble. I realize the movie is supposed to be a comedy, but still it lost me once Jesse Eisenberg drove up to this creepy site.
I quit the pizza business (during which I wrote my memoir “Loving Mailer”) when I sold my archive of Mailer material documenting our eight years together to Harvard University. But I have always looked fondly upon this experience.
The portrayal of a pizza delivery guy in this film is a cliché. My enjoyment from delivering pizzas stemmed from the manager and how he ran the store. Some managers were tyrants as in “30 Minutes or Less,” and others were caring, supportive souls who usually had been drivers so they knew the pressure we dealt with.
When I saw “30 Minutes or Less,” I wondered why the talented Eisenberg agreed to star in it? It must have been due to director Ruben Fleischer’s wit established in his previous directorial effort “Zombieland,” which is missing here. The writing by Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan is nowhere. Eisenberg had just come off his triumph staring in “The Social Network” and foolishly chose to star in this dreck, a film that represents all that is negative about Hollywood. Gratuitous violence, crude repetitive jokes, infantile and vulgar humor abound.
“In the day, pussies like you wore dresses to keep us entertained,” Dwayne (Danny Mc Bride) says to a lap dancer.” You could be my queen and polish my royal scepter.” Well, there are a few very funny priceless lines, but these strung together do not a movie make.
Nor do Eisenberg (Nick) and Aziz Ansari (Chet) create a star team. A reincarnated Bob Hope and Bing Crosby would have been funny. Ansari does not have the charisma or acting chops to keep up with Eisenberg who is good in this bad film.
The story is about a pizza delivery man bored with his ho-hum life but in love with Chet’s sister, Kate (Dilshad Vadsaria), a great beauty and standout in this mediocrity. Two aspiring criminals, Dwayne and Travis (Nick Swardson), plot how to get $100,000 so that they can hire a hit man to kill Dwayne’s father, the Major, played by the competent Fred Ward.
The Major has just won $100,000 in lottery and won’t give any of the money to his son, so Dwayne plans to kill his tyrannical father to get the money. They need a hit man who charges $100,000.
Now they concoct a scheme to kidnap an innocent victim and strap him with a bomb then terrorize him via their cell. “Let’s force some dumb schmuck to rob a bank,” Dwayne says to Travis. While they are planning this heist and pondering whom they should kidnap, an ad for home delivery of pizza appears on the TV in front of them. “Sometimes fate pulls out its big old cock and slaps you in the face,” Dwayne says, chortling, then orders a pizza to be delivered to an abandoned site.
Dwayne and Nick disguise themselves in monkey costumes and voila! Up drives Nick/Eisenberg to be snarled in the web. He is chloroformed. When he awakens, a vest made of a bomb rigged to a cellphone is strapped to his chest. The incompetent criminals explain that he has nine hours to get $100,000 or they will detonate the bomb with the cell phone.
Unable to go to the police because Dwayne and Travis will blow them up, Nick quickly visits his friend, Chet, who is teaching elementary school and asks for his help. Together they steal a car and are off to the local bank after buying plastic toy guns that they spray paint to appear real. After they steal a car, they rob a bank and mayhem ensues.
The acting of Eisenberg, Swardson and Danny McBride is believable except for one shot when Eisenberg is supposedly driving a car, but instead of looking at the road is looking at his pal Chet . Dilshard Vadsaria is a breath of fresh ingenue air, while it is a delight to see the gruff yet winning Fred Ward again.
You eventually will cheer the team of Nick and Chet — if you have not already been drawn to the exit sign.