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The Jesse Eisenberg Flop Defying Odds And Dominating Netflix

One of the great pleasures of Netflix is stumbling upon a movie with an all-star cast from a popular director that you've never heard of before. Whether the film ends up being any good is almost beside the point. It's really the thrill of discovery that makes hitting play such a joy. Perhaps that has something to do with why the overlooked action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less has secured a spot for itself on the current list of the Top 10 Most Viewed movies on Netflix.

When 30 Minutes or Less premiered in 2011, it wasn't a disaster on the scale of Dark Phoenix or The Goldfinch, but it also failed to make much of an impression. Critics and Rotten Tomatoes users alike reacted to the film with a big "meh," and according to a report from Box Office Mojo at the time of its release, the film was considered a disappointment at the box office. Even though it presents as a middling stoner comedy, the movie hit theaters with quite a bit of pedigree for its era.

30 Minutes or Less was directed by Ruben Fleischer, who was fresh off of helming the popular Zombieland (and later made the also popular Zombieland: Double Tap). Jesse Eisenberg, who had just been nominated for an Oscar for The Social Network, stars in the film, along with a cast that includes Aziz Ansari at the height of his Parks and Recreation fame, and the reliable talents of Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, and Michael Peña. Unfortunately, none of those names were enough to keep the movie from floundering.

But that was then, and this is now. Here's what you need to know about 30 Minutes or Less, the latest flop that's taking everybody by surprise and killing it on Netflix.

What is 30 Minutes or Less about?

Like any late 2000s-early 2010s action-comedy worth its salt, 30 Minutes or Less centers on a stoner pizza delivery guy with few skills and even less ambition. Nick (Eisenberg) is on what appears to be a routine delivery when he's knocked unconscious. When he comes to, he meets Dwayne (McBride), Travis (Swardson), and the bomb they've strapped to his chest. The pair explain that Nick is going to rob a bank for them and if he fails his mission, tries to remove the explosives, or goes to the police, the bomb will detonate. Thankfully for Nick, he has ten hours to complete the bank robbery, instead of the typical "30 minutes or less" he's allotted for pizza deliveries.

After recruiting his friend, Chet (Ansari), Nick begins to navigate the impossible situation he's found himself in. In what turns out to be a real double edged sword, Dwayne and Travis reveal themselves to be about as good criminals as Nick is a pizza delivery guy, and their already harebrained plot turns even wilder when kidnappings, double crosses, and flamethrowers get involved. Although he has them in short supply, Nick must use his wits to survive the ordeal without ending up in prison or the morgue.

There's a possibility that the plot of 30 Minutes or Less will sound familiar to you. That's because while the filmmakers deny any direct connection, Nick's ordeal bears a striking resemblance to a real life incident that proves the truth is often stranger than fiction.

30 Minutes or Less bears a striking resemblance to a real-life incident

The plot of 30 Minutes or Less sounds pretty outlandish, especially with the sheen of the stoner-comedy veneer that the filmmakers put over it. But Dwayne and Travis' plan to use an explosive vest to force someone to rob a bank for them is actually something that has happened in real life. Unfortunately, the real incident ended much more tragically than the movie version.

In 2003, a pizza delivery man named Brian Wells robbed a bank in Erie, Pennsylvania by threatening the teller with an explosive device that was strapped to his neck. When the police caught up to him, Wells told them that he'd been accosted by a group of strangers who rigged the explosives around his neck and ordered him to carry out the robbery. Sadly for Wells, at least part of his story was true. While he sat in a parking lot waiting for the bomb squad to arrive, the device around his neck detonated, killing him almost instantly.

It later came out that the bomb robbery was the plot of a woman named Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong and her associates to raise enough money to hire a hitman to kill her father. Furthermore, there was even evidence that Wells himself was one of those co-conspirators. Whatever his level of involvement was, things obviously didn't go his way on that fateful day. When the movie came out, Well's family lodged their disapproval at the obvious similarities. For their part, nobody involved in the movie claimed to having anything but a passing knowledge of the case (via Huffington Post).

As for whether the movie is a coincidentally related farce or disrespectful to Wells, you can decide for yourself by checking out 30 Minutes or Less on Netflix.