“30 Minutes or Less”: Too Soon?

First "30 Minutes or Less" was criticized for making light of the real-life death of a pizza delivery driver. Now there are folks that suspect the film has inspired a copycat ransom attempt. Even if it's learned that it's so, what does it really matter?

"30 Minutes or Less" stars Jesse Eisenberg as a pizza delivery driver who is kidnapped by two guys who then strap a bomb vest on him and tell him that if he doesn't rob a bank, they'll blow him up. It's a set-up ripe with comedic possibilities, no? Just day's before the film's release, Madeleine Pulver, the teenage daughter of an Australian millionaire was attacked by a home invader who strapped to her neck a device he claimed was a bomb and handed her a ransom note before running off. It would be 10 hours before the bomb squad would be able to remove the thing, which turned out to be nothing but a relatively harmless pretzel of metal and wires.

The film bears a far greater resemblance to the 2003 death of Brian Wells, who upon his arrest for having robbed a bank in Erie, PA, was found to have a bomb strapped to his neck, one that he told police was placed there by three men who then forced him to commit his crime. Minutes before the bomb squad arrived, the bomb detonated, killing Wells instantly. It was subsequently determined by the courts that Wells had been working in concert with the others, but had not realized a real bomb would be placed around his neck.

So will this recent incident cause the studio to push back the release of "30 Minutes or Less"? And should it? No and no. Despite Sony's absurd attempt to distance the film from what happened to Wells ("Neither the filmmakers nor the stars of '30 Minutes or Less' were aware of this crime prior to their involvement in the film."), if Well's death wasn't enough to hold up the project, an elaborate hoax certainly shouldn't.

Tragedy has been the inspiration for comedy since forever, with actual tragedies inspiring great comedy. Gus Van Sant's hilarious dark comedy "To Die For," starring Nicole Kidman and Matt Dillon," was based on the story of Pamela Smart, the New Hampshire teacher who in 1990 convinced one of her teenaged students to murder her husband.

There have been film's, like "Big Trouble," whose release was soft-pedaled or pushed back in deference to major tragedies, but in that case it was a comedy that involved a bomb on a plane, and it was right after 9/11. With all due respect to Ms. Pulver, what befell her in no way approaches what happened on 9/11.

If we were to start suppressing every piece of art that was inspired by (or inspired) an act of stupidity, we'd all be sitting around staring at cave paintings—and after about a week we'd have to start blocking the caves, 'cuz some moron will surely have done something untoward.

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