'Holy Rollers' just rolls
Although a true story, "Holy Rollers" doesn't deliver more than is expected and may seem like something you've seen before.
Seattle Times movie critic
'Holy Rollers,' 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. Varsity.
"Holy Rollers," seen here last month at the Seattle International Film Festival, 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.
Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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