The Art of Self-Defense is the new dark comedy from writer/director Riley Stearns (Faults) and stars Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland) and Imogen Poots (Green Room).
After Casey (Eisenberg) is attacked at random on the street, he joins a neighborhood karate dojo in an effort to protect himself. Upon joining he meets a charismatic group of characters as he finds himself in over his head.
At the start of the film, “self-defense” seemed like a quirky comedy in the vein of Napoleon Dynamite. But after about 30 minutes, it becomes clear what makes this film so special. Without giving anything away, there is a quite jarring plot twist that takes the film into a completely different territory: one that is both refreshing and incredibly satisfying.
Eisenberg’s performance also felt like a bit of spin on his usual schtick. Casey is awkward, stilted and slightly feminine in a very grounded and sincere way. He is the center of the films theme: hyper-masculinity, and it never delved into a caricature.
Despite it’s overall slight-ness, The Art of Self Defense is a breezy, exciting and funny dark comedy that will surprise you with its cleverness. The marketing for this film has been pretty weak and it’s currently only in limited release, but this is an engaging little film that is worth seeking out.