Williamsburg, NYC, is home to one of the largest Hasidic communities outside of Israel. Fascinating, considering that 10 blocks north you can immerse yourself in probably the largest hipster community outside of Hoxton. Holy Rollers might sound like a New Christian rollerskating team, but it is in fact the curious true story of an orthodox Jew from Brooklyn who falls in with the wrong crowd. Young Sam Gold, impatient in working for his Father and waiting to be married off, accepts the task of flying to Europe to transport some questionable ‘medicine’ back to the States. Said medicine turns out to be drugs, and with only a twitch of his moral-compass, Gold begins his descent into a full blown criminal underworld, where unassuming orthodox Jews are paid to enable drug smuggling.
Jesse Eisenberg is enjoyable to watch, but traces of previous characters he has played are becoming less faint. From the social awkwardness of Zuckerberg in The Social Network to the teenage gawkiness of his characters in Zombieland and Roger Dodger; Eisenberg is beginning to look and sound like a copy of a copy. His performance may be good, but it’s hardly breakout, and Eisenberg runs the risk of ‘doing’ a Michael Cera. Newcomer director Kevin Asch makes Brooklyn look cold and concrete, contrasting nicely with the enticing sexiness of the New York clubs. The heart of the film is found in Gold’s unwavering desire to be, in his sorry way, a ‘good’ Jew. Wearing a beanie cap, he is asked on the street by a man offering teffilin if he is indeed Jewish; ‘of course’, is his snappy answer.
Though it might be filmed in the style of a Williamsburg-dwelling hipster, Holy Rollers is a sombre tale told in a gritty and often comical manner. The film succeeds in subtly demonstrating how deeply a religious disposition can penetrate, if indeed you believe in such a thing. Not even blonde babes, ecstasy or gelt can change that.