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Holy Rollers (2010)
Friday, May 21, 2010
Drug content and language throughout, and brief sexual material.
Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha, Danny A. Abeckaser, Ari Graynor, Jason Fuchs, Q-Tip, Bern Cohem, Mark Ivanir, Charlie Hewson
Inspired by a true story of a young Hasidic man who was lured into the world of international drug trafficking in the late 90s.
Holy Rollers (2010) | Review
A Cautionary Tale
This is the tagline and underlying foundation of Holy Rollers, the based-on-true-events film telling the story of Hasidic Jews in New York City, recruited to smuggle ecstasy pills from Europe into the US. An official selection at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, it is a superbly well-done and poignant look into the life of a young man who simply gets caught up in something that is great in the beginning, but full of heartache in the end.
It is 1998 in Brooklyn and Sam Gold really isn't that much different from any other teenager. He seems a world apart in that he is a Hasidic Jew living with his spiritually traditional family, on the brink of an arranged marriage to another young girl in the community, and is studying to be a rabbi. Despite all of that, though, he is at that familiar point in adolescence where he is beginning to think about life outside of the one that he has always known. As he works alongside his father in a fabric shop in the city he wonders what it would be like if he were allowed to make the business decisions. He sees what he feels are money-making opportunities passing by his seemingly oblivious father who has made clear that it is better to be honest and create loyalty than to make a few extra dollars.
As he watches his family struggle financially, Sam does not understand why his father doesn't take advantage of every chance he has to make a little extra money. Sam begins to wonder, as any kid in his situation probably would, what it would be like to have a different life, one in the outside world, one full of excitement, opportunity, and, of course, money. He is about to learn that you should be careful what you wish for. When his best friend and next door neighbor Leon's charismatic brother Yosef sees Sam in this conflicted state of mind, he offers what Sam sees as the opportunity of a lifetime. Yosef shows him how he can make some extra money for himself and his family and also secure a good and profitable future simply by helping one of Yosef's business friends import some "medicine for rich people" from Europe.
Enticed by the allure of unknown riches, and also blatantly ignoring his father's admonition regarding the pursuit of money, Sam enlists the help of Leon and agrees to meet Yosef's business partner, Jackie. Jackie is immediately drawn to Sam, a smart and innocent looking kid, and before Sam, or Leon, knows it, they are traveling to Amsterdam and carting suitcases full of "medicine" back to New York. The contents of their luggage does not remain a mystery for long, though, and when they figure out that they have just been used as illegal drug mules, they are immediately indignant. They vow not to tell anyone, because they didn't know what they were doing, but also agree to never do anything like this ever again. Leon has no problem keeping this commitment. Sam, however, when he looks at all the hundred dollar bills in his pocket, is faced with a difficult decision. Will he do the right thing and, in the words of his Rabbi, choose to move closer to Hashem (God) or choose to move further away, in his blind pursuit of money?
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