Tuesday , September 29 2020
The true story of Hasidic Jews recruited to smuggle ecstasy into the U.S.

Movie Review: Holy Rollers

Holy Rollers opens with the words "inspired by true events," and a glorious shot of the New York skyline. The Empire State Building fades into the distance as the train takes us into Brooklyn, and the modest home of the Gold family. The Golds live in the heart of the Orthodox Jewish community, and are devout.

Young Sam Gold's (Jesse Eisenberg) future has been ordained since birth. There is an upcoming arranged marriage for him to a pretty young Jewish woman, and he is studying to become a rabbi. It is clear that Sam is going along with this plan out of familial obligation, but is heart is not in it. When his friend and neighbor Yosef (Justin Bartha) recruits him to earn easy money by importing "medicine" from Europe, Sam decides to try it.

Although he does not realize it in the beginning, the "medicine" they are smuggling is ecstasy. Sam has been recruited precisely because he is Hasidic; the smugglers feel that he will attract the least amount of attention from the authorities. Sam is very good the job, and quickly moves up in rank. His life has changed radically, practically overnight, and his friends and family hardly know what to make of it. He has money, parties in the exclusive nightclubs of Manhattan and Amsterdam, and is frequently taking ecstasy. The marriage and rabbinical studies have become a thing of the past, as he moves toward the film's inevitable conclusion.

Holy Rollers, directed by Kevin Asch, was filmed on location in New York and Amsterdam in sumptuous detail. This adds immeasurably to the realism of the story, as does the music by MJ Mynarski. Mynarski's score is an essential component, as it helps reflect the two worlds Sam Gold straddles.

The picture is rated R, primarily for the drug content, although there is some language, violence, and sexuality. Holy Rollers is a film you probably will have trouble finding in the local multiplex, but one that is definitely worth seeking out.

About Greg Barbrick

Check Also

writing on the wall ben passikoff ghost signs new york city nyc

Book Review: ‘The Writing on the Wall: Rediscovering New York City’s “Ghost Signs”‘ by Ben Passikoff

Faded painted signs from times past linger on the sides of Manhattan's buildings, advertising everything from theaters to hosiery, meat markets to hotels, stables to department stores. Ben Passikoff's big, crisp photos of these relics preserve a vanishing history of industry in New York.