Jesse Eisenberg’s last major film was 2009’s feel-good, good-time, end-of-the-world pic “Zombieland.”
Eisenberg got to run around a post apocalyptic version of America in that film, sidekick to Woody Harrelson, dispatching zombies in decidedly grizzly ways. It was loads of fun, that film — one of last year’s best popcorn crowd-pleasers.
For his next film, Eisenberg is changing gears — to put it mildly — and shifting into independent mode with “Holy Rollers.” For obvious reasons, the film’s title immediately brings to mind — at least for me — Eddie Murphy’s 1998 film “Holy Man,” a film with which, by all indications, “Holy Rollers” has nothing in common. For one, “Holy Man” was no indie, but rather, a big budget, big-studio stinker. For another, it was post-‘80s Eddie Murphy. In the words of Ashton Kutcher from the recent “Killers” trailer: Blah.
But I’m veering off topic. In “Holy Rollers,” Eisenberg plays Sam Gold, a Jewish teen from the Bronx who comes from a devout Hasidic family. Sam’s parents are extremely conservative and traditional. They’ve already decided and mapped out his life, including an arranged marriage and plans for him to become a Rabbi. In the trailer, Sam mostly appears to adopt a “go along to get along” attitude; it seems apparent, though, that his outlook has been formed, principally, from a lack of exposure to the larger world; it seems equally apparent that, given the opportunity, Sam would, in the least, stray from his devout upbringing, if not reject it outright.
Sam’s opportunity comes in the form of his friend Yosef (Justin Bartha), who, sensing Sam’s discontent, helps him land a job transporting “medicine” for a man named Jackie (Danny Abeckaser). Jackie is actually a drug dealer and his “medicine” is actually the illegal drug ecstasy. Sam’s new “job,” then, is working as a drug mule, smuggling ecstasy between Amsterdam and New York .
Ironically, Sam’s background as a devout Hasidic Jew serves as perfect cover in smuggling the drug back and forth across the Atlantic. He soon finds himself falling into a life of money, pleasure and power he never knew existed — a life of twisted, shady dealings, too. From the looks of it, Jackie’s girlfriend (Ari Graynor) appears to take a more-than-friendly liking to Sam, too. I’ve never worked as drug mule, mind you, but I’ve got to think making nasty with the boss’s girlfriend is an ill-advised move. But maybe that’s just me.
The film proclaims itself as “inspired by true events,” and that tag slightly elevates my interest level. Otherwise, this looks to be a well-done indie. Hard to know for sure, of course, especially with director Kevin Asch being mostly untested and the same being true for screenwriter Antonio Macia. But isn’t that, traditionally, the point of independent productions: giving inexperienced and/or unknown filmmakers a chance to grab a bigger piece of the spotlight?
Overall, I find myself moderately interested in this pic, but whether I see it in theaters will largely depend on the reviews — and on whether it plays anywhere nearby. Unless they’re picked up by a major studio, big-screen indies can be hard to come by in my neck of the woods.
In any case, “Holy Rollers” opens May 21.
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