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We’re less than week away from the release of 30 Minutes Or Less, and excitement surrounding the project is starting to build. The reviews have been largely positive and each subsequent clip has generated more interest. It seems pretty safe to assume it’ll open to at least decent numbers this weekend, but not everyone is pleased with what could turn out to be one of the funnier comedies of the summer. In fact, the family of Brian Wells, the pizza delivery man whose story loosely inspired the film, doesn’t see anything funny about its subject matter.
Speaking by email to the Associated Press, Brian Wells’ sister Jean Heid said…
"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. I don't think it's funny to laugh at the innocent who are victimized by criminals, who care nothing for human life."
On the surface, Heid’s words seem pointed and powerful. Those unfamiliar with the story may even sympathize with her plight, but as the years have passed since her brother lost his life, a new picture has emerged that doesn’t paint Wells in quite as rosy a light. Of course, none of that was clear on a hot August day in 2003 as a chubby forty-six year old sat Indian style in the middle of an Erie, Pennsylvania street with a bomb on around his neck.
A few minutes before, that same man had strolled into a local bank with a homemade firearm disguised as a cane and a large object bulging beneath his shirt. He quietly stood in line and sucked on a lollipop, patiently waiting for the next available teller. He demanded two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. She gave him less than ten. Still, Wells took the loot, piled in his car and drove a short distance before getting out and retrieving a note hidden beneath a rock. A police officer, having heard about the robbery, pulled him over and asked he exit the vehicle. Guns were drawn, reporters flocked to the scene and all calmly awaited the arrival of the bomb squad, at least until the device suddenly began ticking. Frantic, Wells began telling officers he was forced to rob a bank by three men who’d placed the apparatus around his neck. He screamed the location the assailants had taken him and demanded help, but the bomb went off, killing Wells instantly.
After a thorough FBI investigation, the bureau concluded Wells was actually a co-conspirator. He knew those three men who’d put the bomb on him. He’d owed some favors and agreed to the felony to clear his debts. He was to blame the entire thing on three random black guys, but on the day of the robbery, he was double crossed and a real bomb was used rather than a fake one. After he was pulled over by the police, Wells’ partners in crime patiently watched from a nearby parking lot before deciding it was best to blow him up. His family still vigorously denies the allegations, but numerous links between a prostitute Wells frequented and the other perpetrators were found. He’s even thought to have posed for measurements so the bomb makers could fit the device.
Was Brian Wells a victim? I suppose in some ways, but he certainly wasn’t innocent enough to warrant outcry about a film only loosely based off of what happened. That doesn’t mean the release of 30 Minutes Or Less isn’t hard on his family and those who knew him best, but it seems an unfounded accusation to claim Wells’ memory is being in anyway tarnished by this film’s release.
In response to the family members’ complaints, Sony has released a statement saying the directors and stars had no knowledge of Wells’ case prior to filming, and the screenwriters, while aware of what happened, did not write a story that mirrored what actually happened. I have a hard time believing no one went back and researched the case, but even if they did, Jesse Eisenberg and company have every right to make this movie. The sad, stunning final days of Brian Wells are among the most bizarre history has ever offered. They give onlookers reasons to shake their heads and reasons to cry. Now those strange moments are giving the world a funny movie, one Brian Wells probably would have gone to see himself had his life turned out differently.