Holy Rollers

The summer of 2010 may be one of the worst seasons on record at the box office; but, you wouldn’t think that when you go to your local movie theater on a Friday or Saturday night.  There are long lines for tickets, longer lines at the concession stand, it feels like a madhouse.  If you want to get a ticket to one of the newest summer releases you better get to the theater early or get your tickets online.  Even if you do one of the above, get to the theater early anyway, or you may find yourself sitting in one of the first three rows.  There is an alternative to all this, you can instead catch an independent movie where you will not only not have to worry about fighting with the large crowds to get a seat; you can also feel like your money was well spent.


One such movie you may want to check out is “Holy Rollers”, a move based on true events that took place in the 1990’s.  Jesse Eisenberg (“Zombieland”) plays Sam Gold, a Hasidic Jew, who gets caught up in drug smuggling.  He is recruited by a neighbor, Yoself (Justin Bartha) after Sam is rejected from the family of the woman he was chosen to marry.  Sam believes it is because his family does not have enough money.  Yoself tells him he can make $1500 if he goes to Europe, all expenses paid, and bring back some “medicine”.  The medicine in question turns out to be ecstasy.

At first Sam is not comfortable smuggling in the drug (“I’ve never heard Jews complain so much about making money,” someone states).  As time goes on, and he sees all the money he can make, he not only gets more relaxed about it, he soon becomes a recruiter himself (“Your doing a mitzvah for your family,” he tells them).  While this is going on people in the neighborhood begin to talk and it begins to rip apart his family life. 

The reason why this really happened is that someone thought these Jewish people would  make some great smugglers of drug into our country is probably because of how innocent they appear.  Ecstasy pills are not sniffed out by dogs when you fly into customs and agents usually don’t ask Hasidic Jews to open their suitcases. 

One aspect of this movie that is really fun to watch is that while Sam is doing this highly illegal activity, he always remains faithful to his religion and all its teachings.  To give away some of the uncomfortable situations he finds himself would be spoiling parts of the film.  Let’s just say he is clearly out of place when he finds himself at an Amsterdam night club.  It’s also interesting what a natural Sam is when it comes to watching him deal with suppliers when it comes to negotiating.  He is clearly in his element.

If there are complaints to be made, one is the pacing of the movie.  This is director Kevin Asch’s first feature length movie, and he still has much to learn.  The movie is not even 90-minutes, yet it feels longer at times.  Sam motives sometimes come into question too.  We understand he wants to make more money than his father; but, his transition from reluctant mule to smooth operator does not feel fully earned. 

Asch does have a good idea on how to paint a picture with a camera.  Many of the shots he helps to construct, like having a large window in the background so his actors appear as shadows, serves the film well.  He also gets pretty good performances from his supporting cast, Mark Ivanir, who plays Sam’s father, Mendel, really stands out.  The movie is rated R for its use of language, some violence and brief sexuality and is now playing locally.