Inspired by a drug ring that used Hasidic Jews to transport over one million pills of Ecstasy to the United States in a six-month period between 1998 and '99, Kevin Asch's Holy Rollers stars Jesse Eisenberg as a good old Brooklyn boy turned mid-level dope importer. Driven by the sense of economic inferiority and sexual uncertainty that the film suggests lies latent at the heart of the Hasidic experience, Eisenberg's Sam Gold hooks up with a neighborhood hot shot who promises him the chance to earn extra gelt by transporting "medicine" back from Amsterdam. Both intoxicated and repelled by the undercurrent of the forbidden, Sam reluctantly dedicates himself to his new pursuit; it's not long before he's cutting off his payos and striking deals with the suppliers on his own. Nicely detailed in its early scenes of Hasidic life (if somewhat less so in its depiction of the drug operation) and powered by Eisenberg's finely graded performance, Holy Rollers is too beholden to its predictable pattern of rise, fall, and partial redemption. Failing to generate either excitement as a crime story or credibility as a morality play, the film ultimately confirms the traditional values that helped push its confused lead to the brink of damnation in the first place.
June 11-17, 2010