Hasidic Jews and drug smuggling. It's the natural, synergistic fit. It's actually shocking that Hollywood waited this long to pair the two in this perfect union, but better late than never. Enter Holy Rollers, the Jessie Eisenberg-starring picture that is inspired by true events.
In the movie, Eisenberg stars as Sam Gold, a young Hasid from an Orthodox Brooklyn community who is awaiting an arranged marriage and studying to become a Rabbi. But when a charming neighbor (Justin Bartha, of The Hangover) propositions him to transport "medicine" for an Israeli dealer, things quickly spiral out of control as Sam's business skills get him caught up in all kinds of trouble.
It's quite the concept.
A great concept, unfortunately, does not make a great movie. Directed by Kevin Asch and written by Antonio Macia, Holy Rollers is mildly entertaining but otherwise lacks an edge. Though the Hasidic angle plays a part early on, the movie quickly becomes just another innocent-kid-turned-bad story, but without anything really bad actually happening.
The concept seems ripe for a dark comedic take, and yet there are few if any laughs throughout. More problematic is the fact that it's unclear what genre the film belongs to, as it's either a drama without any seriously dramatic moments or a thriller that lacks suspense. While Asch fails to latch onto what drives Eisenberg to do what he does, the bigger issue is that he fails to comprehend the irony of a devout Jew becoming a drug dealer. Unable to capitalize on that irony, Holy Rollers falls flat. The crime elements are minimal, the romantic angle subdued and everything else generally uninspiring. We've seen this type of story before and done much better.
The movie's fast pace keeps things from completely missing the mark, but Holy Rollers is potential more wasted than not.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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