Jesse Eisenberg is a busy man. This year alone, he has toplined two features (Holy Rollers and The Social Network) and provided integral supporting work in another (Solitary Man). While Eisenberg will likely earn a best-actor Oscar nomination for portraying Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a tetchy, mildly diabolical genius in The Social Network, the two lesser-seen films, both now available on home video, are worth a look as well.
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In Holy Rollers, which gives a conventional international drug-running saga an indie-bona-fides topspin by setting it among Brooklyn Hasidim in the late '90s, Eisenberg channels the same locked-in focus he brought to the role of the knuckle-cracking, monitor-transfixed Zuckerberg to play Sam Gold, a well-meaning 20-year-old torn between his community's cloistered world of tefillin and Torah study and the strobe-pulsing nightlife of Amsterdam. Charismatic but proudly impious next-door neighbor Yosef (Justin Bartha) drafts Sam into a "medicine"-transporting operation run by a shifty Israeli (Danny A. Abeckaser); the envelopes of $100 bills and transgressive perks (stolen kisses, hits of Ecstasy) induce Sam to stay in the business, despite the mounting disapproval of his family—and his increasing suspicion that he's in over his head.
Sam goes from apprenticing to become a rabbi to sweet-talking fellow Hasids into becoming unwitting pill mules, capitalizing on the fact that customs officials aren't likely to give the third degree to anyone wearing tzitzit and side curls. At one point, Sam also draws on his experience behind the counter at his father's Lower East Side fabric store to drive a hard bargain with a heavily guarded Ecstasy magnate (Q-Tip). The situation doesn't seem to register with Sam as higher-pressure than any other contact he has with globalized secular life. Sam succeeds as a criminal not because he abandons his ultra-conservative background, but because he starts willingly exploiting it, his sheltered upbringing eventually giving him a kind of fearlessness. Eisenberg's intensity gives the standard rise-and-fall arc of writer-director Kevin Asch's handsome production an extra charge.