This is one of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It simply has to be nominated for an Academy Award.
A large part of the appeal of this documentary is the story itself, which is simply amazing and unbelievable, yet true. A BIZARRE bank robbery with an apparent unwilling participant, Brian Wells, being forced to rob a bank upon threat of detonation of a bomb attached to his neck by way of a device straight out of the "Saw" franchise. When the robbery goes awry unknown persons allow the device to be detonated and Wells is killed.
Days, weeks, months, and even years go by and law enforcement agencies are unable to figure out who dunnit and why. Who was the mastermind? Who built the device? Who attached it to Wells? Was Wells involved in any way? Partially due to the incompetence of state and federal law enforcement authorities key clues were ignored and key aspects of the mystery continued to befuddle law enforcement for years, with key facts and motives only uncovered some fifteen years later.
Trey Borzillieri and his associates do a masterful job of letting the story tell itself. They lay out the unbelievable bombing mystery and allow the viewer to experience the slowly evolving series of clues, evidence, and shocking confessions, each as they come to light over the following months and years. Borzillieri should be commended for staying out of the way of the story. He did not self-promote or overly insert himself in the story, although he was enmeshed in the investigation. This was not Geraldo and Capone's vault. This was Borzillieri laying out a true murder mystery in a way that was as captivating as any John Grisham novel.
There remains one key mystery at the end of the fifteen year investigation, one which involves none other than the Pennsylvania State Attorney General and the Erie County Prosecutor's office. Only at the end of it all do we find that a gang of seriously disturbed individuals, led by Diehl and Rothstein, and including Kenneth Barnes, Floyd Stockton, and Jessica Hoopsick, conspired to kidnap an unsuspecting and innocent Brian Wells during a pizza delivery, forcibly attach a gruesome bomb to his neck in hopes of forcing him to rob a bank, then murdered Wells as the device detonated.
SO WHY WAS NOBODY PROSECUTED FOR WELLS' MURDER? There was only a prosecution of one of the conspirators (Diehl) for robbery-related offenses, but NOBODY was ever prosecuted for Wells' murder! Why? Simply because all the conspirators (right up until the time of Hoopsick's recent confession) consistently alleged that Wells himself was involved in the conspiracy, which was false.
Why did they claim Wells was a co-conspirator? It is a bit complicated, but under Pennsylvania law, the death of one conspirator during the commission of a crime does not permit the other conspirators to be convicted of first degree murder with the accompanying death penalty. So, as bizarre as it seems, if Wells was revealed as a victim the conspirators could get the needle. However, if Wells could be framed as a conspirator himself, no needle. All the conspirators were aware of this point of law. Because of this each one of them (right up until Hoopsick cracked) swore, attested, and screamed to the moon that Wells was a co-conspirator, that he was in on the plot from the beginning. They lied about Wells being an accomplice (instead of a victim) simply to escape lethal injection.
AND EACH OF THE LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES bought into this crap, even naming the deceased Wells as an unindicted co-conspirator! This was despite the fact that Wells obviously struggled with his assailants as they attached the bomb, and there was never any evidence that Wells knew the conspirators (other than Hoopsick, who admitted targeting Wells for the gang as a potential dupe). The only connection at all with the gang was that Wells may have delivered a pizza order to the conspirators the day before the bombing.
And now the mystery: WHAT WILL THE ERIE COUNTY PROSECUTOR DO NOW? Hoopsick's confession reveals that Wells' killing was nothing more than a sick and gruesome COLD-BLOODED MURDER. Incompetence is forgivable - we all make mistakes. And federal and state law enforcement certainly committed their share of bungles in this case, allowing key facts to remain hidden, and allowing Wells to be falsely accused of being a conspirator in his own murder.
This was so unbelievably, incredibly hurtful to Wells' family.
But what is NOT forgivable is when law enforcement fails to admit it's errors, when it allows justice to be thwarted, and when it allows the innocent to suffer MERELY TO CONCEAL LAW ENFORCEMENT INCOMPETENCE. Diehl, Rothstein, and their gang of sociopaths committed a gruesome and inhuman act on Brian Wells, who was an old, simple, innocent, well-liked pizza-delivery guy. For law enforcement to blame Wells for his own death added insult to injury. It was unbelievably hurtful, and constitutes a wrong that cannot stand.
And so, a final question. Now that the Pennsylvania State Attorney General and the Erie County Prosecutor know the truth (based on Hoopsick's confession), will they FINALLY prosecute the surviving gang members for Wells' murder? If they fail to do this then who are the bigger sociopaths, Diehl and Rothstein, or the Pennsylvania State Attorney General and the Erie County Prosecutor?
Not much of a film noir, more of a boring political hit job.
I'll start by saying I really like the cast. Ed Norton, William Defoe, Bruce Willis, even Alec Baldwin -- great foundation for a film noir. How can you go wrong? However, I struggled through the beginning of the movie. Although I tried and tried, it was really hard to shake the suspicion that Ed Norton was reprising his role of Brian from The Score, a ho-hum heist movie from the early 2000s. ("Okay, Bye Bye!").
Now a film noir involves a flawed hero, someone who's a little good, and a little bad. But here Lionel's (Norton's) flaw is simply Tourrete syndrome? What's next, Schizo Sal, a hard-as-nails PI who moonlights as a reluctant serial killer? (Hey, that one actually sounds kind of interesting!). Although a few of Lionel's Freudian outbursts were kind of funny, for the most part I found them irritating and distracting.
And the underlying message of the movie, the obvious trashing (and basically doing a Trump job) on poor Robert Moses (Baldwin's character), a man responsible for getting done many of the major highways and most of the major bridge crossing in NYC? Verrazano, Whitestone, Thogs Neck, Triborough, and others -- without Moses the citizens of New York would probably STILL be riding over-priced river ferries to get INTO NYC, and then strugging through perpetual and nonstop gridlock in an endless maze of local roads. You think NYC is bad now?
This movie is not so much a film noir, but more of a political hit job on Robert Moses, a man who led many of the practical efforts to modernize and clean up New York City in the early 20th century.
The performances in this movie were great for the most part, and it was definitely a decent caper film. However, the movie was sold on the premise we were going to get the real scoop on the hitherto unreported story of how in 1972 mobsters scored $30 million in dirty slush fund money stashed by Nixon CREEPS in safety deposit boxes in California National Bank. This turned out to be as disappointing as watching Geraldo open Al Capone's vault.
The performances by the two Aussies, Travis Fimmel (Harry Barber) and Tasmanian angel Rachael Tayler (Molly Murphy) were great. They were sincere, likeable, and they had good romantic chemistry. This movie had kind of a "my escape from the mob" theme, and you couldn't help but to root for Harry and Molly to get away and live happily ever after.
The mobster performances were also very good. William Fichtner (crew leader Enzo) gave a good performance, as usual, and watching the gang members interact was enjoyable, although some of the gang members sounded a little more Brooklyn than Youngstown, Ohio.
Forest Whitaker is always enjoyable to watch, but it seemed like his character was there primarily to insert a couple of "facts" into the film. Such as (1) that there seemed to be an awful lot of high-level federal interest in this robbery, and (2) that CREEP member Chuck Coulson had a baseball card collection in one of the safety deposit boxes. Now, I have no idea if these are true, but these are interesting facts. Even taken as true, however, they show little more evidence of a secret $30 million Nixon stash than an average CNN broadcast provides actual evidence of Trump-Russia collusion. No $30 million stash was ever found, and no amount vulgar anti-Nixon rants expressed by several of the characters in this movie changes this fact.
Tell Geraldo to go back home. This one's empty too.
Perhaps not great film noir, but very good. Beautifully dark, surreal, and edgy. The story line may have offered perhaps one twist too many, but the performances! Margot Robbie plays a powerful anti-heroine, giving a wonderful performance combining evil, insanity, and humor. A female anti-superhero who repeated conquered her male opponents, not with physical force, but with piercing stares, pointed words, and deadly seduction. And Robbie nailed it like perhaps no other actress could have. Mike Myer's performance similarly gave us a wonderful combination of surreal darkness and humor. There is absolutely NO reason Margot Robbie should not have been at least nominated for an academy award. Perhaps Mike Myers as well.