Netflix & Kill: Evil Genius
Netflix once again teamed up with the Duplass brothers - who have blown me away time and time again with their productions - to conjure up a four-part crime show entitled "Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist." The episodes clock in at just under an hour each, and throughout the short series, directors Trey Borzillieri and Barbara Schroeder essentially try to finally bring resolution to the murder-mystery surrounding what has become known as the "Pizza Bomber" incident. Typically, I can sit in front of a television just long enough to get through a full length movie or a few short episodes of a show, and then I want out. But honestly, Evil Genius literally had me hooked from the first ten minutes until the very last second of its wild, roller coaster of a story as the narrator breaks down the events, people, places and things that are responsible for what is one of the country's most bizarre and intriguing stories. It is a story that I'm sure many had forgotten about, and I'm sure many people my own age never even heard of before (such as myself!). It is the story of Brian Wells, his unusual death, and the people responsible. It is the story of a genius who truly is evil; regardless of what they say.
August 28th, 2003. Erie, Pennsylvania.
A man walks into a PNC bank with a bomb collar strapped to his chest. He hands a note to the bank teller, which demands $250,000 from the bank. After casually walking out of the bank (with no where near the $250k the note demanded), he doesn't make it far across town before the police make it to him and isolate him from the rest of the community. As he sat handcuffed on the street with police cars surrounding him that were being used as shields, he was shockingly calm as he yelled out to police that the bomb was going to go off, and that he wasn't lying. As the minutes passed, which no doubt felt like days, tension grew as the bomb squad struggled to make it to the parking lot where Wells was being held, since the roads were closed off to prevent anyone from getting close to the bomb. Soon, the bomb started to tick louder, and Wells haunting pleas for help from the police seemed to grow tenser and tenser. And just like that - in the blink of an eye - the bomb around the chest of the 46 year old pizza delivery man detonated, and it left a fist-sized hole in the chest of Brian Wells, leading to his death. What police would later find out is that the note that the masterminds of this heist left for Wells would indicate that the key to remove the device would be made available to him - all he had to do was follow their tasks which would lead him from one location to another - and he would have been able to get the bomb off his chest. Police would later come to find out that the planned course for Wells was not able to be completed in the time allotted for Brian to complete the tasks. Was Brian Wells telling the truth: was he an involuntary pawn in some other lunatics sick bank robbery? Or was Wells crazy enough to actually strap a live bomb to his own chest to rob a bank? The events that unfolded after the death of Brian Wells were just as bizarre as those of August 28th, 2003 - but you're going to want to watch Evil Genius to find out what went down; it's absolutely unreal.
Every fifteen or so minutes that would pass as I watched Evil Genius, I was growing more and more anxious about what the hell was going to happen next. The chain of events that follow in the weeks after the bank robbery just get weirder and are super suspicious. As new people are introduced to the story, you can't help but wonder their involvement in the robbery that fateful August day. But fear not, directors Trey Borzillieri and Barbara Schroeder do an absolutely splendid job breaking everything down as they explain everyone's relationships to each other and their involvement. The case its self is a goddamn mess, but across four perfectly laid out episodes, the show manages to break down the story beautifully. The first episode essentially dictates the awful "Pizza Bomber" incident, the second introduces you to another weird case that may be linked to the Pizza Bomber case, the third does an excellent job of explaining exactly who the suspects are and how they are linked to one or both of the cases, and the fourth episode brings it all to an epic close as confessions begin to come out and the truth is revealed. Its an unforgettable ride of anxiety as you try to piece together the fragments to make sense of what the hell is going on exactly. And the producers behind Evil Genius did a fantastic, justified job. This is the way true crime shows should be done: put it all out on the table, bit by bit. The team behind this series managed to get interviews, police tapes, and even personal recordings that are just perfect; it's exactly what you want to see as you try to figure out where the case is going. From police officers to landlords and even "locals" who may have had some information (I'm really trying not to give too much away, if you couldn't tell!), each interview brings new, essential information to the table and offers something of value to the documentary.
If you couldn't already tell, I was blown away by this four-parter and would have no problem re-watching it tomorrow if one of my friends asked. It is an excellent production and I must applaud the team involved for bringing the story of Brian Wells to the public view through Evil Genius, as well as painting the ugly picture of those involved. It is an outstanding watch, and after seeing what many others have said about it, I'm certainly not the only one who thinks so. I cannot recommend this enough - just make sure you have four hours to spare to knock it all out in one sitting because, trust me, you're not going to want to miss a split second of this horrible, shocking tale of murder, money, and mystery.