Some (very late) thoughts from my screening of Kevin Asch's HOLY ROLLERS at the 30th Atlantic Film Festival:
Based on a true story, HOLY ROLLERS follows Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg), a Hasidic man who, in the 90s, got himself involved in an enormous drug trafficking ring. Interesting premise, no? It is, indeed, an interesting premise. Sadly, the "interesting" ends at the premise; what follows is one of the most conventional crime stories you've ever seen. Perhaps that's the problem with most real-life stories; they just aren't as colourful as films. But this just treads on thematic (and narrative) so well tread that it's already been, er, tread flat.
Which isn't to say that those involved aren't good at what they do. Jesse Eisenberg continues to be better than most of his contemporaries. Ari Graynor, as the "femme fatale" character, is suitably femmey (though should could be more fataley). Justin Bartha as Yosef Zimmerman, Sam's gateway into the world of international drug muleing (probably not a word), plays the role of self-destructive loser with a great deal of skill. Everyone's on top of their game, here. They just don't have much to work with.
It isn't that HOLY ROLLERS is a bad film--it does many things right--it's just that it never tries to be anything more than OK. That means that when you're deciding which movie you'd like to spend 90 minutes to two hours of your life watching, HOLY ROLLERS probably shouldn't be near the top of the list.