Dear 30 Minutes or Less,
I said a few weeks ago while reviewing your spiritual cousin, Horrible Bosses, that comedy that derives from genuinely good people trying to do something terrible is delicate and difficult to pull off correctly. This is, of course, especially true when the ineptitude of the protagonists sinks them further and further into trouble, but their desire to complete their indecent task keeps them from bailing out.
This set up usually requires that the characters be stupid, desperate, or arrogant enough that they fail to realize that everything is completely out of whack and their plans are basically irretrievable from the jaws of defeat. You, though, take a far different approach, and as such strike a strange kind of emotional cord and allow for a greater sympathy for your protagonists than Horrible Bosses.
You do this by first showing us a pitiable and yet still inherently likeable young man, Nick, a directionless pizza delivery boy who has been abandoned by everyone save for his oldest friend, and said friend’s sister. When Nick comes clean to his friend, elementary school teacher Chet, about his attraction to his sister, their friendship dissolves in a hilarious game of oneupsmanship. After confessing every single dark secret they have regarding their various ill effects on the others life, the friendship is dissolved, and Nick has bottomed out. It can get no worse, he thinks, until a pair of wannabe criminals strap a bomb to his chest and give him only ten hours to rob a bank.
And so Nick must beg Chet’s forgiveness and persuade him into helping him rob a bank and get away clean. Neither man has any idea what they are doing, and they revert quickly to the cliches of the genre that they have learned from films like Point Break.
Your setup allows for an undivided loyalty to the two bank robbers, mainly because they are being forced to do their misdeed out of fear of a greater evil. Unlike Horrible Bosses, you allow us to hope for a successful crime, without any of the ugly moral implications that comes from cheering for someone who is doing harm to someone else.
A greater asset, though, is the chemistry between your characters. Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg are perfect foils to one another as Chet and Nick, respectively. Ansari brings a kind of manic certainty to his performance. Meanwhile Eisenberg perfectly portrays a man who is at once exhilarated, terrified, and innately wry and cynical about the world around him, allow for his humor to continue even as his life is on the line.
Likewise, the bungling pair of criminals who conceived of this plan have the sort of thick-skulled ignorance that makes you laugh simply because you have no idea how else to response to their utter inanity and madness. It is their ineptitude, and their mishandling of almost every situation that they become a part of, that gives your story its propulsive engine and its hilarious highs.
As your story becomes more and more complex, and as the double- and triple-crosses mount one upon another your humor comes not only from the characters but from the sheer madness of the situations they are thrust into. Your ability to find humor in all of these moments, in the face of actual life-threatening odds, is a true testament to your comedic skill.
As a propulsive, action packed and fun time at the movies, you are a sure thing. It is my firm hope that I get to see you again sometime very soon.
Counting down til I can see you again,
Brian J. Roan