An Orthodox Jew Walks into a Bar…

In the coda that wraps up a case that became a hushed-up scandal at the time, we learn that Sammy turned into a government informant and got off light, with a stint in federal boot camp. Yosef and his other neighborhood “bosses” were not so lucky. They got 16 years in prison on drug conspiracy charges, and Rachel got a year for participating.

Part of the film’s ability to hold attention must be credited to the guileless sincerity of Jesse Eisenberg’s performance. The direction by Kevin Asch and the sometimes clumsy script by Antonio Macia have their moments, but the film has obvious shortcomings. Holy Rollers is nicely staged, though not always dramatically engaging, and so lacking in structure that whole sections of the story seem to have ended up on the cutting-room floor. Why did Leon realize right away the bounty was something more threatening and lethal than “medicine for rich people,” but Sammy’s gullibility plunged him further in the direction of disaster? It’s not easy to sympathize with a kid who knows the difference between right and wrong but still greedily and stubbornly distances himself from everything he’s been taught with full knowledge of the consequences. Young Mr. Eisenberg and a fine cast give Holy Rollers the ballast it otherwise lacks, but we’ve been down this road so often that there are times when I could only wonder why I was watching it at all.

rreed@observer.com

 

Holly Rollers

Running Time: 90 minutes

Written by: Antonio Macia

Directed by: Kevin Asch

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bantha, Ari Graynor

2 Eyeballs out of 4

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