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June 3, 2010
Movie Review: Holy Rollers
Posted by Turk182 in Movie Reviews

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.


Sam works with his father in a fabric store. He is shy, kind, and generally nervous in a Jesse Eisenberg way (although the flaws of the film are certainly not Eisenberg’s – he actually tones down his intellectual awkwardness for the part). Sam gets drawn in by the most rebellious Hasid in film history, a cocky kid named Yosef (Justin Bartha) with connections to the criminal underground. Yosef has been recruiting Hasidic Jews to transport drugs from Europe to Brooklyn and Sam, while hesitant at first, is a perfect fit. It doesn’t hurt that Sam is instantly drawn to the amazingly beautiful Rachel (Ari Graynor), the girlfriend of Yosef’s drug lord boss Jackie (Danny A. Abeckaser). Stay at home and work in the fabric store or do some harmless trips to Europe with the most striking woman you’ve ever seen? It’s a tough decision for any kid but especially one as socially outcast as Sam.

From here, Holy Rollers hits every beat that you might expect it to hit. Of course, Rachel sees that Sam is a good kid too and plays with his affection to an ultimately dangerous degree. Of course, Sam gets deeper into the drug world and eventually breaks down the walls that have kept him from drinking and using. And, of course, Yosef makes a string of bad decisions. Holy Rollers falls into so many clichés that even though it claims to be based on a true story, it’s hard to believe that it happened exactly this way. Sam’s transformation comes too suddenly. One minute, he’s devoutly religious and, before you can say Hashem, he’s recruiting people in his community to commit crimes and doing ecstasy? I don’t think so. It feels like too many character corners were cut, removing the depth that would make the proceedings believable, and leaving only the cliché.

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.


Reviewed by Brian Tallerico (MovieRetriever.com Film Critic)

Release Date: June 4th, 2010
Rating: R

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, and Ari Graynor
Director: Kevin Asch
Writer: Antonio Macia

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Posted by Turk182 in Movie Reviews - June 3, 2010 at 5:06 PM
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