There are very few people whom one would think less likely to be drug mules than Hasidic Jews. Yet that’s exactly what happened to a group of unassuming kids from Brooklyn in the late 1990s and is now chronicled in the dramatic Holy Rollers, an unusual film about a fish very, VERY far from water. The fish is a twenty-year-old Hasidic Jew named Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg) who went from the verge of manhood within his own insulated community to a very different kind of adulthood in seedy clubs with drug dealers. Sam’s fall from grace and the film about it is not unlike traditional New York mob movies like A Bronx Tale or even GoodFellas if they were filtered through the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man. Despite the film’s unique milieu and strong cast, it hits so many familiar beats and takes such a traditional arc that the lack of any surprising twists or turns results in a film that feels both overly familiar and much longer than its 89-minute running time. Holy Rollers may feature unusual characters, but it’s too often a “usual” film.
To be fair, the performances by Eisenberg and Graynor nearly save the piece. Eisenberg continues to make interesting choices as an actor and, I believe, should quickly distinguish himself from fellow neurotic young actors like Michael Cera and Jay Baruchel. On the other side, Bartha is never quite as believable, feeling a bit too much like a plot point and not enough like a character. Finally, Graynor is simply fantastic, not overplaying the sexpot girlfriend role in the slightest. She’s easily the best thing about the movie, making the viewer want to know more about her story. It probably would have made a better one than Holy Rollers.
Rating: TWO BONES
Release Date: June 4th, 2010
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, and Ari Graynor
Director: Kevin Asch
Writer: Antonio Macia