Sam Gold (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young Hasidic Jew eagerly awaiting his set marriage. Unfortunately her family does not consent to the proposal and Sam deems it's because of the money. The Gold family works in fabrics and Sam is employed along with his father dealing with hagglers day in and day out. Their apartment gets more cramped by the day and luxuries are hard to come by, but they have each other.
That family bond is soon pushed by Sam. Family, friends, religion, all of these "little" things get in the way of Sam's ability to bring in money. Sam realizes that his father's business is modest, but money makes life easier and he wants a good life. Set marriages are fine, but he has his eye on the finer things and more attractive women.
No matter what people think of you, they respect the money. I see a lot of parallels to Michael in The Godfather actually, the initial naivete, the instinctive grab for power once the foot is in the threshold, down to the manipulation of other innocents for private gain.
With the help of his next door neighbor Yosef (Doug Bartha), Sam gets into importing medicine for an associate of Yosef's. Soon it is discovered that he is actually bringing ecstasy into the country. The stakes are huge if things go awry, the reward however are quite lucrative.
2010 is proving to be Jesse Eisenberg break out year. Good things are coming later with The Social Network due in October, but this is another fine performance to put on his resume.
Doug Bartha is given something different to work with in Holy Rollers. We know right off the bat that there is something shady about Yosef, but it isn't until later we find out what. Thankfully, this is appreciably uncharacteristic of Bartha's frequent buttoned-down, good guy roles in National Treasure series and The Hangover.
The film falters in its tempo however. It lags when immediately following a scene that raises the stakes and the continuance of slow scenes is frustrating. We know what inevitably follows, it is based on a true story, but the film's pacing shouldn't have to suffer for it.
Despite the unusual players in a story about the appeal of the drug lifestyle, the aftermath, feuds and paranoia are all the same. Holy Rollers doesn't venture far away enough from the standard tropes of the genre.