Holy Rollers'
Friday, 25 June 2010

"Holy Rollers" is one of those movies that sounds much better than it is. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, that fine, perpetually rumpled-looking young actor who always finds something interesting in a character - nobody plays defiant vulnerability quite like him - and its story, based on true events, is potentially fascinating.

And yet, something went wrong along the way; it's not a terrible movie, but all the way through you feel as if you've already seen it.

Eisenberg plays Sam, a 20-year-old Hasidic Jew in 1998 Brooklyn who's thinking, with some trepidation, about his future - marriage, becoming a rabbi, entering a life much like that which he's always known. And then he's asked, by a neighbor, to help out with a little job in which he'd transport "medicine" across U.S. borders. ("Relax, mind your business, and act Jewish," he's instructed.) Sam, at first innocently thinking that he's helping out a doctor, enters the drug-smuggling world and thrives in it - who would suspect him?

It's an intriguing premise - you leave wanting to know more about the true story behind it - but director Kevin Asch and screenwriter Antonio Macia don't deliver much more than a predictable, rote tale of innocence corrupted. We know this can't possibly end well for Sam and his friend Yosef (Justin Bartha, who brings a welcome touch of humor to the film), and indeed it doesn't.

Though Eisenberg makes Sam a sweetly desperate anti-hero, he's stuck in a film that feels long at 89 minutes, and that raises more questions than it answers.


2 stars

With Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Ari Graynor, Danny A. Abeckaser, Q-Tip. Directed by Kevin Asch, from a screenplay by Antonio Macia. 89 minutes. Rated R for drug content and language throughout, and brief sexual material.


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