Movie Review: It’s Hasidic youth gone wild in ‘Holy Rollers’


Given its intriguing premise and inherently meaty conflicts, the glibly titled crime drama “Holy Rollers” never quite catches fire, calling for more edge and narrative tension than director Kevin Asch and screenwriter Antonio Macia manage to deliver. Still, it’s an often evocative dip into unique territory fleshed out by a highly convincing cast.

Jesse Eisenberg (“The Squid and the Whale,” “Adventureland”) expands his usual brainy underdog shtick — somewhat — as Sam Gold, a 20-year-old Brooklyn Hasid whose cocky neighbor Yosef (“ The Hangover’s” Justin Bartha) introduces him to a lucrative scheme in which ultra-Orthodox Jews are hired to smuggle Ecstasy pills for an Israeli dealer (Danny Abeckaser, also a producer here). Although inspired by true, late 1990s events, the script doesn’t effectively square Sam’s leap from would-be rabbi to a shrewd, E-popping businessman who parties with Amsterdam’s night owls and woos the boss’ susceptible girlfriend (Ari Graynor). Ditch the wide-brimmed hat, snip those pesky payot (curled sideburns) and, it seems, anything’s possible for a wayward Hasid.

More satisfying are the increasingly heated interactions between Sam and his suspicious, old-school parents (Mark Ivanir, Elizabeth Marvel), worried sister (Hallie Eisenberg, Jesse’s actual sister) and conservative best friend — and Yosef’s brother — Leon (Jason Fuchs). This fairly brief film could have used more of these emotionally resonant moments.


“Holy Rollers.” MPAA rating: R for drug content and language throughout, and brief sexual material. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. Playing at the Landmark, West L.A.

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