In what essentially amounts to a film version of a good Locked Up Abroad episode, Holly Rollers tells the story of young Hasidic Jews who were recruited to smuggle ecstasy from Europe to the United States. Specifically, the film looks at the inculcation of Jesse Eisenberg's character to this new lifestyle.
The story that Holy Rollers seeks to tell is a familiar one, but one that should translate well to film. The film does a good job at the start, establishing the rigid belief system and antiquated social structure of Eisenberg's background. His introduction to the world is believable, but the film soon seems to lose its sense of build up and pace. Whereas it set up the Jewish community so well, Essenberg's rise in the drug world seems rushed, with the character arcs of those surrounding him never being fully fleshed out. It's as if the film stopped trying to distinguish itself about 1/3 of the way through, and instead opted for auto pilot.
The performances in the film are all good, with Eisenberg having an especially interesting depiction of his character, conservative, awkward, shy, but yet curious and strangely competent. The problem, however, is that many of the supporting roles never fully developed, being especially pronounced with Justin Bartha's character. The relationship between Eisenberg and Ari Gaynor is also not handled especially well.
Despite the weaknesses, Holy Rollers remains entertaining. It has most of the hallmarks of an effective drama, though it never stops to catch itself and reignite its originality.