deadCENTER Film Festival Day 3: Holy Rollers!

Day three of the 10th Annual deadCENTER Film Festival, and by all accounts  it has been the best one yet!  I was in attendance for Friday night’s screening of the new film Holy Rollers directed by Kevin Asch and starring Jesse Eisenberg.

Holy Rollers

It is said that in the late 1990’s over 1,000,000 ecstasy pills were smuggled past U.S. Customs by Hasidic Jews.  The rationale for using them as smugglers was that nobody would ever suspect anything and airport security personnel wouldn’t think to search their bags.  Holy Rollers tells that story.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Sam Gold.   He’s respectful of his church, has a good work ethic, and wants nothing more than to help his family make ends meet in their community.  Sam is a true innocent, and his best friends older brother, Yosef (Justin Bartha), decides to exploit that when he recruits Sam to help “import medicine” in from Amsterdam.  Sam sees this as an opportunity to break away from working for his father, but when he discovers that the “medicine” is actually ecstasy pills he’s not so keen on the idea.  But the money is too good to turn down, and he decides to go on a second run to Amsterdam where he meets his boss Jackie (Danny A. Abeckaser), who takes Sam out for a night on the town, and just like that the innocent little Jewish boy with side curls and hat is hooked to a new lifestyle.  That  seems to be a little tough to buy so soon into the story, but Sam starts handling all the number crunching for Jackie’s operation, and now is all of a sudden OK smuggling drugs.  There are no big interrogations, shoot outs, or what you might expect from a movie about drug runners.    Instead the story goes in and out of Sam’s internal struggle with being cast out of his Jewish community and being labeled a criminal.

Kevin Asch directs in a very straight forward manner that you really wouldn’t expect going into this type of story.   Jesse Eisenberg is very serviceable as the every-boy that he continues to show he plays so well, and Justin Bartha plays the drugged up Yosef to the best of his abilities.  I admire everyone involved for taking on a typical story in a very untypical world, but this one just misses a little by not giving the audience more things to get excited about.