New SIFF Review: Holy Rollers, The True Story of Card-Counting Christians

Not to be confused with the Jesse Eisenberg-as-Hasidic-Jewish-drug-dealer Holy Rollers from SIFF last year (though both involve conflicts of faith), this world-premiere documentary has strong Seattle connections. Two local churchgoing dudes, Ben Crawford and Colin Jones, now the film's co-producers, decide to start a blackjack card-counting crew. Since one of the biggest risks to the all-cash racket--apart from getting booted from casinos, a regular occurrence--is theft, they build their squad entirely out of fellow young evangelicals. Who better to trust, right, than fellow bros in Christ?

Raised in Seattle, director Bryan Storkel obviously enjoyed total access to the "Church Team" for nearly five years, sneaking cameras into casinos, filming in their homes, and otherwise sitting on a story not reported in any local media. Secrecy is key to the scheme, since casinos nationwide keep track of all such card-counting squads. Storkel sides too strongly with his subjects, a likable bunch not given to many doubts. Opposite their self-justification (the proceeds pay for pastoral work, some say), a few casino managers aren't given much time to describe their losses. And the Church Team is but one of many such groups around the country--again, there's no big picture. But even secular Seattleites will find themselves rooting for these devious believers. As for the one black sheep cast out of the flock, he didn't consent to an interview. If there's sin and shame to this tale that Storkel edited out, we'll see it in the Hollywood remake. BRIAN MILLER (Admiral, 6 p.m. Sat., June 11; and SIFF Cinema, 3:30 p.m. Sun., June 12.)

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