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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Jesse Eisenberg
Justin Bartha
Danny A. Abeckaser
Ari Graynor.
Directors
Kevin Asch.
Screenwriters
Antonio Macia.
Running Time
88 minutes

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Holy Rollers
Smuggler On The Roof


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Plot
Sammy (Eisenberg) — an ultra-orthodox Jewish teenager — risks losing everything when his frustration with religion’s limitations gets the better of him. Lured into a drug-smuggling career by his shifty neighbour (Bartha), Sammy must go on the run, but will he ever redeem his soul?


Review
Holy Rollers
As far as originality goes, this directorial debut from Kevin Asch gets a head start — it’s a drug mule crime story based on an extraordinary case in ’90s Brooklyn, New York, which saw Hasidic Jews primed to courier ecstasy from Amsterdam. It’s a wonder nobody thought of this before: the big hats, the embarrassed shuffling, the muttering… what customs officer would suspect such innately suspicious smugglers? But rather than being a dark-humoured, Yiddish gangster thriller, Holy Rollers is more familiar: a compelling coming-of-age drama examining a frustrated teenager’s loss of innocence.

Meet Sammy Gold (Jesse Eisenberg). One of God’s “chosen people”, his life has been mapped out: working for his tailor father; studying to become a Rabbi; praying he’ll one day make a good match. Obedient but thwarted by blind faith, Sammy is nevertheless preoccupied with the notion of money. So far, so Fiddler On The Roof. But things turn more peddler in the hood due to local rogue Yosef (Justin Bartha) — the only Hasid in the borough with white Nike hi-tops and porn. He offers Sammy a different calling in the “medical business”, working for Israeli Del Boy Jackie (Danny A. Abeckaser). Naive Sammy takes the bait, spiralling down a path paved with blasphemy, sex, drugs, non-kosher sushi… Everything bar a bacon sandwich is cavorting before his nervy, untouched exterior as Sammy discovers what things would be like… if he were a rich man.

Eisenberg’s not covering new ground here (see The Social Network, The Squid And The Whale, Zombieland). We’ve come to expect The Eisennerd to be awkwardly stuttering, gulping and emoting onscreen. As a Woody Allen fan from New Jersey, he does it well; outcast Sammy’s paranoia and alienation in both the drug world and his community is something Eisenberg could communicate in his sleep. Still, he’s an effective choice. But it’s versatile Bartha, known for goofing about in The Hangover, who shines with his raw depiction of a criminal with a soul.

It’s that concept of moral conflict that drives Asch’s project. Yes, he could have sexed up the material — as a drug romp Holy Rollers is under-cooked. But as introspective drama, Asch takes a gritty news story and makes it run deeper. Juxtaposing Brooklyn’s claustrophobic living quarters against the throbbing, strobe-lit hedonism of Amsterdam, it takes us on a journey closer towards secular integration and further from God.


Verdict
Jewish clichés can be forgiven as Asch revisits the shtetl for his crime tale that shines a light upon a society within via one rebel’s secular awakening. Notice Q-Tip’s cameo as a member of the Kosher Nostra.


Reviewed by Eve Barlow

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Holy Rollers
Empire Star Rating

Worst written verdict I have ever seen

The review of this film sounds more like a 3 star review but that's not too much of a problem. My gripe is with the verdict. Not only does there appear to an extra word typo ("within via one") but it tells me nothing about the film and I had to read it about 5 times before it made any sense. It's also a verdict for only people that have seen the film as it refers to things I have no clue about despite seeing the trailer - surely one of the points of a verdict is to help people make up... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djimi42 at 17:51, 11 July 2011 | Report This Post


Worst written verdict I have ever seen

The review of this film sounds more like a 3 star review but that's not too much of a problem. My gripe is with the verdict. Not only does there appear to an extra word typo ("within via one") but it tells me nothing about the film and I had to read it about 5 times before it made any sense. It's also a verdict for only people that have seen the film as it refers to things I have no clue about despite seeing the trailer - surely one of the points of a verdict is to help people make up... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by djimi42 at 17:51, 11 July 2011 | Report This Post


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