2010-06-18 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope

‘Holy Rollers’ – Agony And Ecstasy
By Robert Snyder

Orthodox Jews gone “Goodfellas.” Impossible? In fact, it did happen in the ‘90’s, with a million hits of the illegal drug, Ecstasy, smuggled from Amsterdam to New York via Hasidic “mules.”

The story is told in the film, “Holy Rollers,” focusing on young Brooklyn rabbinical student Sam Gold (Jesse “The Squid and the Whale” Eisenberg) who, like Henry Hill of “Goodfellas,” gets swept up in the tantalizing lure of easy money and crime.

Frustrated with his hard-working , poor-but-honest father (Mark Ivanir), Sam succumbs to the seductive comeon of neighbor Yosef (Justin Bartha) and his promise of big bucks by transporting “medicine for rich people.” When Sam bombs out in an arranged marriage, he decides to take action as his mother cries over her broken stove.

Soon, he is in Amsterdam partying with bad girl Rachel (Ari Graynor) and Israeli drug lord Jackie (Danny Abeckaser).

Then, with contraband in tow, he boards the airlines and crosses customs, buoyed by Yosef’s advice, “Be calm and act Jewish.”

What happens is no surprise. His pious family rejects him and his new acquired-through-crime stove. And for a while, Sam (minus his “payos” sideburns) tries to take charge of the smuggling operation, recruiting innocent Orthodox couples for his “medicine” smuggling. Before long, dogs sniff out the truth, leaving Sam and company in federal prison.

True as it is, “Holy Rollers” has been done before, from “Scarface” to “Maria Full of Grace.” Still, first-time feature director Kevin Asch makes the corrupted youth cliché compelling in its authentic Williamsburg and Crown Heights locations.

It is also a fine vehicle for Eisenberg, who has been sliding into such schlock as the recent “Zombieland.” Acting is top-notch all around, with Eisenberg shining in a struggle through a rite of passage down a very dark road.

Go see “Holy Rollers.” Bring your teens to show them that ecstasy can be agony.

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