Holy Rollers (2010)

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Released 22-Jun-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Cast and Crew
Interviews-Cast-Jesse and Justin
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 88:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Kevin Asch

Madman Entertainment
Starring Jesse Eisenberg
Justin Bartha
Danny A. Abeckaser
Ari Graynor
Jason Fuchs
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Mj Mynarski

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     When the DVD case to a film proclaims that it is "in the time honoured tradition of The Godfather and Scarface" and that quote originates from the New York Times it's fair to say that the film has a lot to live up to. Is it an epic family drama in the mould of The Godfather or a brutal cautionary tale like Scarface where the road to the top is littered with bleeding corpses? As it turns out, Holy Rollers is neither. At 88 min it is hardly an epic and yet the film does have some real positives and is an insight into another world. If anything the film that it most resembles is the Ridley Scott movie American Gangster. That film opened the lid on an African American crime lord who ruled Harlem and raked in the dollars. Holy Rollers is also based on a true story of minority crime.

     It is 1998. Hasidic Jew Sam Gold (The Social Network's Jesse Eisenberg) lives with his devout mother and father and younger sister in the Crown Heights district of Manhattan. He works with his father, a tailor, and is studying to become a rabbi. If his career path, clothing or religion, has been marked out for him then his love life is even more predestined. He is on the eligible bachelor list for an arranged marriage within the Orthodox Jewish community. But Sam questions his fate. He rankles at his father’s acceptance of the said date and the modest life of a tailor and yearns for something more. When his neighbour Yosef (The Hangover's Justin Bartha) shows off his new Rolex Sam sees him as a neighbourhood success story. When Yosef offers to share his wealth secrets Sam is all ears. It is simple. All he has to do is take some medicine from Amsterdam back to New York via Montreal. The boss man is a non-practicing Jew (Danny Abeckaser). He seems to have everything worked out, including a beautiful companion in Rachael (Ari Graynor). There are no surprises when the medicine turns out to be Ecstasy.

     Here's the trick - who would suspect the devout Hasidic Jew of importing drugs? The black suits, long sidelocks, dangling white threads make them able to hide in plain sight. The Talmud says : " Sin is sweet in the beginning but bitter in the end". OK, I cribbed that from the trailer but in time honoured tradition the world of innocent Sam explodes into life with all its temptations, a great rise before the equally great fall.

     Holy Rollers is no masterpiece but it is an excellent first effort from director Kevin Asch from a script by Antonio Macia. There are no real surprises in the story although the location gives it that extra level of interest. Eisenberg puts on another fine display as a good Jewish boy doing bad things and Justin Bartha makes a fine good guy/bad guy as the over-indulging Yosef. The story may be a bit clichéd but the milieu is not. Worth a watch.

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Transfer Quality


     Holy Rollers was shot on 35mm film. It was shown at cinemas in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for the DVD release. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     This is not a glossy high budget spectacle and shouldn't be judged as such. In general the image is clean and clear. There is an early scene on the stoop between Sam and Yosef's brother which looked to have come off worse for wear in the transfer, with an unfocussed look, until the director kindly pointed out in the commentary track that it was shot on the first day and was slightly out of focus. They never had the money to go back and re-shoot. The flesh tones are accurate and the colours, drab in New York, bright in Amsterdam, are well handled and appealing. There is a light grain. The blacks are reasonably deep.

     There are no subtitles. The absence is difficult to quantify. There is a lot of Yiddish in the film for which the subtitles probably wouldn't have helped.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The sound for Holy Rollers is English Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448 Kb/s. There is also a 2.0 track running at the rate of 224 Kb/s and a 2.0 commentary track.

     There isn't a lot for the surround track to do. The dialogue is a little muddled, but maybe that is because the dialogue is full of Yiddish. Music is provided from two sources - a soundtrack by MJ Mynarski, which gives emotional depth to the scenes of family, and some club music by Andre Allen Anjos. The latter gives some work to the sub-woofer, providing a thumping bassline.


     There are a few extras thrown into the package.

Audio Commentary - Kevin Asch, Danny Abeckaser, Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha

     The audio commentary is an enjoyable affair. The director, producer and lead actors clearly had a lot of fun putting the film together and it shows in this breezy but informative commentary. They are prepared to point out the weaknesses as well as the strengths.

Deleted Scenes

     There are 5 deleted scenes included, all of short length. They are : Alternate Opening (.39), Hannukah (.33), No Match (.22), Yosef's Joke (.28), Last Goodbye (.52). Truth be told there is little to recommend the scenes, except perhaps the last which gives an insight into the final moments between Sam and Rachael.

Interview : Jesse and Justin (4.07)

     A brief interview with the two leads. Most of the time is spent talking about the characters.

Theatrical Trailer (2.09)

     The Theatrical Trailer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 DVD is identical in all specifications except that it apparently has a DTS 5.1 track in place of the vanilla 5.1 on this DVD. Buy local.


     Holy Rollers doesn't add anything to the crime picture but it does put a different slant on the ingenuity of criminals to fool the authorities with a pious exterior.

     The DVD looks reasonably good considering the low budget origins. The extras are pretty brief though the commentary track is an enjoyable listen.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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