Review: HOLY ROLLERS

HOLY ROLLERS 

reviewer Goncalo Sousa
Rated: 15 (UK)
Release Date: July 8th, 2011(UK)
DirectorKevin Asch
CastJesse EisenbergJustin BarthaQ-TipAri Graynor

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Holy Rollers is the feature debut for director Kevin Asch, a film presented as being based on real events, which tells the story of Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg), a young man in his late teens whose family is part of Brooklyn’s ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish community. Sam is a quiet and shy boy, a rabbinical student who one day hopes to inherit his family business. Hoping to prove himself as a savvy businessman, Sam accepts a work offer from his best friend’s older brother Yosef (Justin Bartha), transporting ‘medicine’ from Amsterdam to New York. Sam soon discovers that the pills he is bringing from Amsterdam are actually ecstasy, and he is part of a network of drug trafficking which uses young members of the orthodox Jewish community as transporters, as they are rarely profiled for searches at airports in the US. While he is initially conflicted, Sam eventually finds it impossible to resist the temptation and thrill of money, and he quickly ascends in the ranks of the entire operation, eventually becoming a recruiter himself.

This is a solid and well crafted film, though devoid of any real surprises. The types of settings and characters in this story are not often presented in films, and the director’s own Jewish upbringing ensures that the film has a multilayered approach to the Jewish culture and faith. The film portrays the series of orthodox Jewish rituals and customs as something which, on the one hand can bring a community together and give its members a common purpose, while on the other hand also acting as a separating influence from the rest of society, a society which the Hasidic community considers to be morally corrupt. Sam finds himself caught between these two worlds, as a timid Jewish man whose strict upbringing has made him feel like he could never live up to his community’s expectations of him.

Unfortunately, and despite a good performance by Jesse Eisenberg, the way in which Sam’s character suddenly changes from insecure and naive teenager to streetwise and savvy drug dealer is never quite believable, and the entire film suffers from a lack of pace which stops it from ever taking off the ground. Ultimately it feels like there are many avenues that the filmmakers could have gone down, especially exploring Justin Bartha’s character, which are ignored, and which would’ve have made Holy Rollers more than just a middle-of-the-road cautionary tale.

MOVIE RATING: 3/5

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About Paul Devine

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The founder of The People's Movies, started the site 20th November 2008.The site has excelled past all expectations with many only giving the site months and it's still going strong. A lover of French Thrillers, Post Apocalyptic films, Asian cinema. 2009 started Cinehouse to start his 'cinema education' learning their is life outside mainstream cinema. Outside of film, love to travel with Sorrento, Guangzhou and Manchester all favourite destinations.Musically loves David Bowie, Fishbone, Radiohead.