Monday, September 26, 2011

30 Minutes or Less (Ruben Fleischer, 2011) -- C+

It's hard to determine whether 30 Minutes or Less, directed by Zombieland hack Ruben Fleischer, is a work of social relevance cum genre firecracker or merely a nonsense piece of pop-cultural potpourri, as tasteless as it is ephemeral. Perhaps the question is hard to answer because the film is both, at times acutely aware of its characters' post-adolescent (but still nascent) masculinity as tied directly to grander notions of monetary gain (image rules their desire), yet at others merely a product of over-stimulated cultural awareness, no better epitomized than ODB's "Baby I Got Your Money" which plays over the closing credits, a most disingenuous quasi-ironic hipster choice that aligns Fleischer not as a social satirist, but merely a kid lost in a candy store, picking and choosing without discrimination, merely drunk on his own euphoric delusions of grandeur rather than any cogent cultural focus. The film's title cleverly aligns stringent consumerist cannibalism with dehumanization (the penniless pizza boy a perfect metonym for absurdist capitalism), but the only joke that manifests involves Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) getting an extra $20 off a couple of dim-witted middle-schoolers. Funnier than Eisenberg is Chet (Aziz Ansari), though he's generally left to fulfill dutiful side-kick roles. Moreover, the potential for hilarity would seem endless between knuckle-heads Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), whose entrepreneurial dreams consist of opening their own massage/fuck parlor (a PERFECT metaphor for the now indecipherable cultural synthesis of sexual unfulfillment and heteronormative psychology), but yet again, petty banter takes the place of irreverent perception. Fleischer seems capable of taking a cultural pulse, at times hilariously allowing an expression of gender hostility (Dwayne's epithet "Quiet down, Slumdog" to Chet's sister stands out) that transcends grab-bag nihilism. Ultimately though, the elements that suggest sophistication are snuffed-out by too much playful apathy, settling for unfocused shenanigans over streamlined satire.

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