The Art of Self-Defense is a 2019 dark comedy film, written and directed by Riley Stearns. It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, and Imogen Poots.
The SXSW breakout is one of this writer’s favourite films of 2019 thus far, its clever blend of quirky comedy, shocking violence, and razor-sharp satire coalescing strikingly into a fierce critique of toxic masculinity in the modern age.
After a brutal mugging, a man takes up karate to better defend himself but soon falls under the spell of the dojo’s enigmatic leader.
Jesse Eisenberg stars in as a meek, 9-to-5er who, after a brutal mugging, turns to a local Sensei (Alessandro Nivola) for help. What could be a goofy, feel-good story about a man breaking from his shell turns into something infinitely more sinister, and Eisenberg’s anxious energy is here exploited and subverted in service of the narrative.