Holy Rollers Review

A clothes merchant, a drug smuggler and a rabbi walk into a bar.

The joke is they’re all the same guy; Sam Gold to be precise and Holy Rollers is his unlikely story.

We open with a young man helping his parents carry some groceries home. This is Sam; a dutiful son who assists his father with day to day running of their family store, in training to be a rabbi at his local synagogue and a boy with a crush on some Jewish hottie in his orthodox community.

As is the Jewish way, Sam’s father makes the necessary arrangements and asks this Jewish girl’s family for their daughter’s hand. She agrees but then it’s down to business, like some bad Jewish stereotype, as these two young Jews awkwardly talk about how many children they’ll have.

Sam offers 5, but she wants 8.


The only other distraction in Sam’s moribund existence is his neighbour Yosef, who’s a little different from the rest of his staid Jewish enclave. Yosef likes getting high, watching bad porn on his bedroom tv and, occasionally, lets Sam peek at this depressing spectacle through their adjacent windows.

But what Yosef offers Sam next will corrupt him much quicker than some ugly silicon implants.

Yosef also happens to be part of a smuggling operation with an Israeli gangster called Jackie. With the allure of fast money and all expenses paid trips to europe, Yosef is able to turn Sam to his way of thinking.

For his part, all Sam has to do is play drugs mule; couriering some harmless medication from Europe to america.

Which is actually true. Even though this medicine turns out to be ecstasy, it’s a less publicised truth that peanuts kill more people every year than these pills.

Of course, some substances are legal in our world and others aren’t.

Regardless, Sam knows what he’s getting himself into. But the temptation proves too much to resist.

As he’s gradually drawn into the inner sanctum of Jackie’s criminal underworld, and all the vibrant attractions Brooklyn’s night life has to offer, Sam moves further away from his religious roots.

Which path will Sam choose; the orthodox life of a Jew or the infinitely more exciting, yet immoral life that’s right in front of him?

I wasn’t too sure what to expect from Holy Rollers. Superficially, a film that features many an image of Hasidic Jews on the front cover isn’t going to pique my interest.

Yet it would have been my loss, as Holy Rollers is so much more than some stranger than fiction yarn about weird religious men with big hats and funny curls in their hair.

They have drugs too.

While Sam’s orthodox community initially comes across as quite a hard sell to a non Jewish audience, it actually anchors the film.

The extreme’s between the two worlds Sam is drawn into, and his journey into this alien territory, is what makes Holy Rollers so watchable.

Once again, Jessie Eisenberg enhances his acting credentials with another nuanced performance; playing the geeky outsider like no one else in Hollywood can.

Brightening the harsh realities of the drug smuggling nine to five is Jackie’s fun loving moll Rachel, played by Ari Graynor.

Graynor is full of life and energy as a slightly insecure soul who takes a shine to the purity Sam still has, something Rachel lost a long time ago.

That old adage of opposites attracts holds true for these two, with Rachel happily taking on the mantle of Sam’s guide as he experiences many things outside the Jewish faith.

If you’re looking for tired anecdotes about rabbi’s, this may not be the film for you. But Holy Rollers is much more enjoyable than any blockbuster I’ve seen this year.

And that’s no joke.

Jonathan Campbell

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Dates ‘n stuff

July 2011