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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Holy Rollers (review)

It’s a familiar story — Nice Kid gets mixed up in Bad Things — but as first-time feature director Kevin Asch tells it, there’s extra potency to the contrast between the Nice and the Bad. A young Brooklyn Hasidic Jew, Sam (Jesse Eisenberg: Solitary Man) is being groomed as a rabbi, though he doesn’t seem all that interested in the work, except for how it may make him more marriagable. And then his neighbor, Yosef (Justin Bartha: The Hangover), convinces him to get into the medical business with him, importing fancy drugs for rich people from Amsterdam. The medicine turns out to be Ecstasy, and after his initial shock, Sam is onboard. It seems that “acting Jewish” and looking Hasidic at Customs is a good way to not get searched… and it seems that the temptations of secular partying are too much to resist. Eisenberg, always a diffident screen presence, is particularly effective here as a young man who convincingly journeys from one who won’t shake hands with a woman because he “has respect” for her to one grooming new Hasidic mules with businesslike efficiency, harnessing their naivete just as his was. The unfussy, based-on-fact script by Antonio Macia leaves aside all handwringing about sheltered upbringings — “Do they make young people more susceptible to being led down a path?” is a question left for the viewer to ponder — to simply present a portrait of innocence that willingly allows itself to be corrupted.

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MPAA: rated R for drug content and language throughout, and brief sexual material

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
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