Sex, Drugs, and Hasidic Jews – Film Review “Holy Rollers” by Orchid Cameron

Hey remember that time you were tricked into smuggling drugs by your Hasidic neighbor? That sucked.

Inspired by actual events in the late nineties Holy Rollers tells the story of Hasidic Jews recruited as mules to smuggle ecstasy from Europe into the United States.

Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Squid and the Whale) leads the cast as Sam Gold, a young Hasid from an Orthodox Brooklyn community, delivering a stunning performance about loss of innocence. Every step of the way, your heart is broken as you witness Sam’s every willing choice in the wrong direction taking him deeper into the criminal underworld.

He is pulled along by friend Yosef (Justin Bartha of The Hangover and National Treasure) and moves up the ranks of the cartel run by drug smuggling mastermind Jackie, played by Danny Abeckaser: who conveniently is also the film’s mastermind.

Danny saw a news piece about the story, and was inspired to raise the development money to finance a script and quickly enlisted director/producer Kevin Asch to develop the source material. They soon hired screenwriter Antonio Macia, and leaned on Danny’s experience of growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community to shape the premise into a screenplay. With a finished script, they were able to attach actors Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Bartha, but “they became more like partners in getting the film made and in making the best possible film,” recalled Kevin.

Although performances by Jesse, Justin, and Danny shine; most impressive is Ari Graynor, as Rachel, Jackie’s girlfriend. Her multidimensional character embodies playfulness, sex appeal, innocence and vulnerability. Many lesser actors would make the character of “drug dealer’s girlfriend” flat and uninteresting. Far from two dimensional, you can see her depth and are sucked into who she is as a person.

The film was shot on location in Amsterdam, New York City, and in Williamsburg’s Hasidic area. The visual storytelling matches the actor’s performances in intensity.

Mark Ivanir plays the lead character’s father who is the moral compass in the film, gently inviting Sam back into the right path. Q-Tip plays Ephraim, the intimidating drug dealer in Amsterdam, also a noteworthy performance.

Orchid Cameron has a theater degree from Loyola Marymount University, (which is, y’know, just right up the road here-) where she excelled as a director as well as a playwright. She also wrote for the Loyolan in the Arts and Entertainment section. An avid film geek, she specializes in foreign and independent cinema. She teaches in the Film Conservatory at Orange County High School of the Arts. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.

Landmark opens on Friday at the Landmark Theater 10850 West Pico, Los Angeles, CA 90064

Director Kevin Asch, star of the film Jesse Eisenberg, and screenwriter Antonio Macia will be doing a Q & A after the 7 p.m. screenings on Friday and Saturday night at the Landmark.

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  1. For future reference: Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Natalie Portman, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Julian Morris, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Marla Sokoloff, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Adam Brody, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gabriel Macht, Halston Sage.

    Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Emmy Rossum, Jennifer Connelly, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman.

    Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Andrew Garfield, Ezra Miller, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Ben Foster, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron.

    Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

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