Erie event basis for movie

Eight years ago, the Erie community experienced one of the more bizarre crimes in recent history when 46-year-old pizza delivery man Brian Wells robbed a PNC Bank on upper Peach Street while having a collar bomb attached around his neck.

Soon after he robbed the bank, police arrested him and he sat in handcuffs by a police car awaiting a bomb squad.

However, when the bomb squad arrived, they were late — Wells’ bomb detonated a few minutes before they got there. Wells died immediately when the bomb went off.

After years of investigation, authorities concluded that Wells was forced to wear the bomb by conspirators Kenneth Barnes and Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, both of whom are now behind bars.

The story quickly became popular as many national and local news organizations covered the incident and its aftermath.

For such a media-frenzied story, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood would grab hold of it. And it did, in the form of Ruben Fleischer’s (“Zombieland”) latest film “30 Minutes or Less.”

But the movie is not what you think it is. Instead of a documentary or a drama about one of the most appalling crimes of the last couple decades, the end result is a comedy.

An all-star cast is featured in Fleischer’s second film, with the main cast featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson.

The plot revolves around Nick (Eisenberg), a procrastinating pizza delivery man who is employed by the 30 Minutes or Less pizza shop.

His best friend, Chet (Ansari), is a school teacher and his roommate. Although the two are friends, they butt heads, which leads to comedic arguments.

Elsewhere, Dwayne (McBride) lives with his wealthy, strict father (Fred Ward). Along with his best friend Travis (Swardson), the two blockheaded delinquents spend their time blowing stuff up with homemade bombs and other weaponry.

Tired of being bossed around by his father, Dwayne proposes a plan to Travis that includes kidnapping a “loser” and forcing him to rob a bank.

Nick is the target of this scheme and when he arrives with what he believes is just a regular pizza delivery, he is knocked unconscious by Travis and Dwayne, both of whom are wearing monkey masks.

Nick wakes up to find a bomb strapped to his chest. If Nick doesn’t rob $100,000 from a bank in 10 hours, the bomb will detonate.

Nick enlists the help of Chet to aid him in robbing a bank. The story takes off and what follows is a handful of ridiculous laughs and potty-mouth humor.

The same couldn’t be said for the real-life event in Erie in 2003, though. But perhaps the fact that the two similar stories have two conflicting emotional values attached to them is incidental.

Surprisingly, Fleischer and the cast said they didn’t know about the infamous case before starting the film project.

Even more surprising is the fact the screenwriters were only “vaguely aware” of the event.

Believe what you want out of that, but the bottom line is that “30 Minutes or Less” is a very entertaining film. The movie is short, running only an hour and 23 minutes.

But, it knows its place and doesn’t go into heavy detail about the heist itself—it is more about the hilarity that ensues.

One thing that this movie excels at, more than anything, is the actors’ devotion to their roles. The main cast put life into each of their characters and makes the most out of its screen time.

I will admit I haven’t laughed this much at a comedy in a quite a while. It’s not “Horrible Bosses,” but it’s a solid comedy that will produce many laughs. At face value, this is a good, but not great, comedy.

JACOB TARR

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