Small-town pizza boy Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) finds his mundane life spiced up when he runs into two wannabe criminal masterminds (Danny McBride, Nick Swardson). When the pair rope him into their plan to rob a bank, he calls on ex-pal Chet (Aziz Ansari) to help him pull of the impossible.
It takes considerably fewer than 30 minutes for Ruben Fleischer to prove Zombieland was no one-off, in this, his latest mix of genres and taste levels. Like Zombieland it manages to be at once easily funny and provocatively un-PC. Like it, too, it surfs a precarious wave of knockabout humour and harsh violence. Like it, three, it stars Jesse Eisenberg — this time thrown into his now-practised histrionics by a bomb strapped to the chest instead of an invading horde of the undead.
Certainly, it feels very similar to Fleischer’s breakout hit in terms of its visual style and sheer unrelenting momentum, but in a summer where the likes of The Hangover Part II and the third Transformers film have repeated previous plots wholesale, he can be forgiven for using familiar licks to spin what remains a new story. On the strength of this he was given the green light for The Gangster Squad, his modern Untouchables, with a cast including Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling and a scope so epic one can only hope it’ll force him to breathe from time to time. Here, though, his foot is flat on the pedal, motoring through a plot packed with twists, surprises and double-crosses in a running time that wouldn’t even get you to the halfway mark of your average Potter.
As with Zombieland, Fleischer’s M.O. as director — very tight, strictly scripted, allowing little room for improvisation — produces at once a startlingly freewheeling feel and a cast on best behaviour. Danny McBride’s usual shoot-enough-bullets approach is thus replaced with something approaching a character. Eisenberg, in a pickle that’s ludicrous even by Fleischer standards, manages to ground his escalating predicament to the point of suspended belief, and their partners in crime, Nick Swardson and Aziz Ansari, provide comedy counterpoints with enough interesting character quirks and plot moments to elevate them above the standard sidekick schtick. All even play along with a recurring food motif that echoes Brad Pitt’s in the Ocean’s series — pointless, yet completely charming.
Clearly a talent, at points there is a sense that Fleischer (and Eisenberg, while we’re at it) is coasting in comfortable territory, and it seems right that he is moving on to considerably bigger things next. But, for now, enjoy them both while they’re here.
Outrageous and endearing, the Zombieland team swaps horror for crime in a daft caper thats undoubtedly slight but terrifically entertaining all the same. Very fast and lots of fun.