From the first minute I heard about it, I (like most people, I imagine) assumed that 30 Minutes or Less, the new film opening this weekend in which Jesse Eisenberg plays a pizza boy who gets a bomb strapped to him by kidnappers and ordered to rob a bank, had been inspired by the real-life collar bomb case from 2003. It seemed like an interesting and ballsy (if weird) idea. Now the family of Brian Wells, the original collar bomb victim who had his head blown off while TV cameras rolled, tell the press that they’re upset that people would make light of such an event — a perfect, predictable, open-ended, keep-the-news-cycle-going type story (SHOULD A REAL-LIFE TRAGEDY BE PLAYED FOR COMEDY??? FIND OUT, AT ELEVEN!).
Wells’ sister, Jean Heid of Erie, said the movie isn’t funny — whether or not it was inspired by her brother’s sad fate.
“It’s hard for me to grasp how other human beings can take delight and pride in making such a movie and consider it a comedy,” Heid said in an e-mailed response to The Associated Press. [ABC]
The twist is, the filmmakers (director Ruben Fleischer and the producers, at least, the writers still haven’t commented) are adamant that their movie has nothing to do with the Brian Wells case and claim they hadn’t even heard of it — which is a load of bullsh*t so stinky they should be disgusted to have it come out of their mouths, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Moviefone: The family of Brian Wells has spoken out against the film, and some audience members think it’s poor taste to do a comedic version of the story. What would you say to those people who think the movie is bad form?
Ruben Fleischer: Well first of all, anyone who hasn’t seen the movie can’t judge. Because they haven’t seen the movie, and it doesn’t really relate to that story other than the fact that there’s a bomb strapped to somebody’s chest. They’re not really related in any way, so I think a lot of people are prejudging it without information.
Well first of all, I have seen the movie (review forthcoming), and I will judge, and it won’t be prejudging because I’m not even sure that’s a real word. But first, here’s the official statement from the studio:
“Neither the filmmakers nor the stars of ’30 Minutes or Less’ were aware of this crime prior to their involvement in the film,” Steve Elzer, the senior vice president who handles media relations for Sony Pictures’ Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, said in a statement. “The writers were vaguely familiar with what had occurred and wrote an original screenplay that does not mirror the real-life tragedy.”
Vaguely familiar, eh? We’ll see about that.
My colleague Jen Yamato over at Movieline has put together an excellent comparison of the real-life case and the plot of the movie, and I think it’s pretty clear that the film is based on the case, even if they changed some of the details (perhaps most crucial, the movie makes Eisenberg an innocent victim, whereas in the real case, Wells was supposedly in on the plot, but didn’t know it was a real bomb).
(None of this is really a spoiler if you’ve seen the film’s trailer).
Real Life Case: Set in Eerie, PA
30 Min. or Less: Set in Grand Rapids, MI
Real Life Case: Crime masterminded by Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, who sought to bankroll a $125,000 hit on her father to inherit his fortune, working with collaborators Kenneth Barnes, William Rothstein, and Floyd Stockton.
30 Min. or Less: Crime masterminded by Dwayne (McBride), who seeks to bankroll a $100,000 hit on his father to inherit his fortune, working with collaborator Travis (Swardson).
Real Life Case: Wells gets a call to deliver pizzas to an empty lot, where his collaborators meet him and outfit him with a bomb collar against his will. He has 55 minutes to rob a bank.
30 Min. or Less: Nick (Eisenberg) gets a call to deliver pizzas to an abandoned stockyard, where his assailants meet him and outfit him with a bomb vest against his will. He has less than nine hours to rob a bank.
Real Life Case: Wells robs the PNC Bank using a modified shotgun [made out of a cane! -Ed], then looks for the clues to removing the bomb collar.
30 Min. or Less: Nick and his best friend Chet (Aziz Ansari) rob a bank using fake guns, then look for clues to removing the bomb vest.
I’m not going to do the whole “So is it similar?? You decide!” thing here, because I think it’s obvious that they knew the case pretty well when they wrote the movie. The damning detail is the part where the kidnappers’ motive was to bankroll a hit on one of their fathers. Because, as a fiction, that doesn’t even make sense. If your motive in having your father killed was to inherit his money, why would you force a guy to rob a bank in order to steal you some money, only to use that money to pay a hitman to kill your father to inherit other money? That retarded plan only makes sense if you’ve been up for five days shooting meth, and there’s no way in hell two human beings thought it up separately. You can admit you were inspired by a true story, guys, it’s not a crime.