The creepy true story behind ’30 Minutes or Less’
(Credits: Sony Pictures Releasing)


The creepy true story behind '30 Minutes or Less'

With a brilliant cast of Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari and Michael Pena, the 2011 action comedy 30 Minutes or Less is a gem of early 2010s comedy that has flown under the radar. Directed by Ruben Fleischer, the film is well worth a watch, even if it received mixed reviews upon release.

The film tells of a small-town pizza delivery driver kidnapped by a pair of hopeful, rather daft criminals. Strapping a bomb to young Nick’s chest, Dwayne and Travis force the pizza deliverer to rob a bank in under half an hour. If Nick tries to seek help or fails within the time limit, then the bomb will explode.

It’s pretty standard fare for a movie starring the likes of Ansari, Eisenberg and McBride, but 30 Minutes or Less does a decent job of providing moments of dark comedy amid tense action sequences. Interestingly, though, Fleischer’s film looks to have been inspired by a real-life event that led to the death of pizza delivery man Brian Wells.

The incident occurred back in 2003. On August 28th, delivery driver Wells robbed a PNC Bank near the town of Erie, Pennsylvania. As the robbery went on, Wells was apprehended by the authorities, but as he was arrested, an explosive collar attached to his neck exploded and killed him instantly.

According to the news reports at the time, Wells had given a note to the bank teller that urged them to put a quarter of a million dollars in a bag within 15 minutes before lifting his shirt to show the bomb device attached to his neck. Leaving with just $8,702, Wells was later caught by the police, who were told by the delivery man that he had been forced to rob the bank by a group of men.

After showing the police officers the neck device, a bomb squad was called, but they were too late as the device was suddenly detonated, and Wells quickly died. The following investigation was called “one of the most complicated crimes” in the history of the FBI, but eventually, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and Kenneth Barnes were charged with the crime in 2007.

The case was indeed difficult a bizarre one, but perhaps the most surprising thing was that Wells’ story seemed to crop up just eight years later in 30 Minutes or Less. Wells’ case was high-profile, but the filmmakers seemed to negate the fact that the real-life robbery had inspired them.

However, despite the similarities between Wells’ case and 30 Minutes or Less, Sony Motion Picture Group claimed that neither they nor the film’s cast or directors had any prior knowledge of the real-life event taking place, while the screenwriters were said to be “vaguely familiar”. In turn, the film was criticised by Wells’ sister and the FBI agent who saw Wells die and proceeded to handle the case’s investigation.

Movies are often based on real-life events, but the case of 30 Minutes or Less and Brian Wells is almost too striking to be true. Perhaps screenwriters Michael Diliberti and Matthew Sullivan knew more about Wells’ death than they had let on, and they thought they could get away with writing it into their film, but naturally, rightful criticism came their way.