Sundance 2010 Review: HOLY ROLLERS

by: Chase Whale
May 21st, 2010

Rating: 3/5

Writer: Antonio Macia
Director: Kevin Asch
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Q-Tip

If there's two things that just don't mix, it's drugs and religion. These two entities come crashing together in HOLY ROLLERS, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Bartha. Eisenberg plays Sam Gold, a young adult from Brooklyn living in a very strict Orthodox Jewish community. All Sam wants is to make his father happy and marry the girl of his dreams; but in order to do that, he feels he needs to be rich. As Fresh Prince once said, "Life got flipped turned upside down" after his pal Yosef (Justin Bartha) persuades him to deal Ecstacy - you know, the stuff that makes sandpaper feel like cotton.

I always enjoy watching Eisenberg on the big screen. He brings a certain charm to all of his performances that makes whatever he's in very enjoyable. You wanna feel sorry for him, but you know there's a man somewhere inside there. In ROLLERS, he does continue his shtick of being the awkward guy, but towards the end of the film, he gains some courage and starts taking a little control of situations. It's nice seeing a quiet man take charge after being so easily manipulated; and as the film progresses and he gets deeper into the drug world, his appearance becomes less of an Orthodox Jew and more like a street thug.

But as much as I love Eisenberg, Justin Bartha pulled the mat out from under his feet in every scene. Justin's previous performance was pretty quiet (the missing guy in THE HANGOVER), but in ROLLERS, he plays the most loud-mouthed racist, coked out, quack Jew I've ever seen. And no matter what, he's never seen without his white Nikes, not even in church. Bartha definitely passes as a confident - and at times ballsy - Ecstasy dealer.

One thing about this film that will not leave my brain is its score (composed by Mj Mynarski). There's a scene where Sam and Yosef are racing on the Brooklyn Bridge towards the camera in slow motion while instrumental music plays over. It's a beautiful scene, and made me think, "This is the happiest moment in Sam Gold's life."

The one and only problem I had with HOLY ROLLERS was the pacing. I found myself getting slightly bored and at times, looking at my watch. When a movie deals with drugs (especially the kind that brings out one's awesomeness), I should be alert for the film's entire running time. I'm sure it's not easy to mesh Orthodox Judaism and Ecstasy (some people may even get offended), but Asch did a pretty good job.

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