Evil Genius: The True Story of America’s Most Diabolical Bank Heist Review

Story posted May 21, 2018 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Scott Perdue

Netflix has just released a new and exciting addition to their original crime documentary repertoire. Alongside other successful Netflix Original true crime stories such as Making A Murderer and The Keepers, Evil Genius tells the true story of a bank heist gone wrong. The specific case analyzed is the Pizza Bomber 2003 PNC bank robbery where pizza delivery man, Brian Wells, is victim to a forced bank robbery and an explosive collar hostage situation. Police scramble to solve the mystery of who put the man up to this crime and whether or not he was a principle member or merely a pizza man who unfortunately had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Evil Genius takes a particular look at Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, a mentally ill and consistently charged criminal, and investigates her role in the case. The documentary, across four episodes, trickles out information and reveals subtle details that are key to piecing the entire story together. The series is able to answer many of the questions that have been left unanswered while also providing original material that was unused by the media. Through this documentary’s utilization of a variety of media elements, the viewer is able to gather a grand scope of the case and learn backgrounds about each and every co-conspirator in the case that rocked America and the small town of Erie, Pa.

During the original case of the Pizza Bomber mystery, co-director Trey Borzillieri, had engaged with Armstrong through letters and personal interviews during the midst of the investigation. His years of journalism allowed him to build up a case file of several pieces of information about Armstrong and through the documentary is able to create an established profile of her character and history of mental illness. Through a sophisticated blend of specialist commentary, crime scene photographs and witness testimonies, Evil Genius is effectively able to grasp and hold the viewers’ attention as it methodically reveals and analyzes several of the pieces of evidence involved in the crime. Thanks to Borzillieri’s connection to Armstrong, the viewer is able to gather further insight into her status as one of the heist’s principle members. The documentary takes on the challenge of proving that Armstrong was in fact the leader of the heist and is in reality all too aware of her actions. The documentary takes its analysis of Armstrong one step further and attempts to prove that she is, despite her constant refusal, the evil genius that she claims to be unjustifiably depicted as.

Whether the viewer had been following the case from its beginning or had never heard of the case up until now, Evil Genius moves at an effective pace that is able to cover all of the information without feeling too repetitive or overbearing with its analysis. While it arguably may not be the most “diabolical” bank heist in history, the strangeness and depth of the case is effectively gripping and the treatment of the story is very well-executed. Borzilleri’s special connection with Armstrong and his tracking of the case since its beginning makes Evil Genius a uniquely crafted documentary and provides information that news outlets were unable to obtain. Definitely a binge worthy series that will leave the viewer guessing and speculating up until the very end.


Scott Perdue is a sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.