Review by Jack Foley
INSPIRED by a true story, Kevin Asch’s Holy Rollers is an absorbing tale of drug smuggling among New York’s ultra-Orthodox (Hasidic) Jewish community.
Jesse (The Social Network) Eisenberg plays Sammy, a frustrated Jewish teenager, whose desire to not see his life governed by religion and tradition prompts him to help his hip neighbour (The Hangover ’s Justin Bartha) deal drugs. Between the two of them, they subsequently establish a major drug trafficking network.
Asch’s film takes the 1999 arrest of ecstasy smuggler Sean Erez and his six conspirators (including Hasidic Jews Simcha Roth and Shimon Levita) as the basis for the drama that unfolds, before following most of the conventions of this type of genre.
But it’s powered by a typically charismatic (if somewhat more angst-ridden) central performance from Eisenberg and a great supporting turn from Bartha. Their friendship may, like the film, follow a familiar path but both actors bring a great deal of energy to proceedings and help to paper over some of its cracks.
If only Antonio Macia’s script hadn’t been so ordinary, or Asch’s direction so low-key, this could have been a lot more memorable.
But as things stand, Macia goes for the obvious, placing Eisenberg’s rising drugs king-pin at odds with his family and his conscience and delivering the inevitable rise-and-fall beats.
The overall result is a film that entertains while it lasts, but which quickly drifts from the memory – but which should have been every bit as audacious as the true story that inspired it.
Running time: 88mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: October 25, 2011