Sunday, 31 July 2011

REVIEW: Holy Rollers

Jews as gangsters.

Holy Rollers belongs to a specific genre of film that I hate, but most people seem to love. That is of course the thriller based on a true story. To me these films are always both decidedly unthrilling and painfully self-serious. Of course it's not a finite rule, I liked Maria Full Of Grace quite a bit, but Holy Rollers, in its tale of hacidic Jews becoming drug mules, is like so many films before it utterly generic. It has no interest in being detailed and no interest in telling a character story. It just wants to be a coming of age gangster film and ride the pathos of the true story all the way to credibility. It's one of the laziest and most commonly seen film-making con tricks, but as far as I'm concerned simply being based on a true story doesn't give you a Hail Mary on poor storytelling, and employing cliche after cliche after cliche.

One of the greatest fallacies of movie-going is that subject matter has something to do with quality, when of course it has nothing to do with it. You can have a masterpiece about a man who dresses as a bat to punch people and a complete Bomb about 9/11. Yet people will continue to think this kind of film 'worthier' even though in many ways it's quite derisive and trashy. There's tons of potential with Jesse Eisenberg's Sam, from his faltering relationship with his family and his faith, to his development of a darker identity, but the film is way too seduced by the run of the mill crime story at hand, as opposed to the much more interesting personal one. So instead of seeing why Sam would do something so out of character, he kind of just does. A necessary obstacle to get past so we can get to the making out with hot chicks and doing drugs and engaging in bland scenes of criminal enterprise. And it just becomes plain boring. Spending way too much time with bland moll and crime boss Ari Graynor and Danny A. Abesecker for one. I think they we meant to be much more interesting than they were.

I do think Eisenberg gives a good performance, and I was more impressed by Justin Bartha as probably the most interesting character and one can;t help feel he should have been the protagonist of this story. Eisenberg's Sam is just a sheep, someone who just passively went along with his situation because he's told to, whereas Bartha made the choice to break from his traditions and beliefs off his own back, and was entirely more dynamic. I don't think it would have mattered all that much though, because the story here is slender, so dramatically underfed that only a miracle could have made this film something other than bland.

Rating: 5/10

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