The Art of Self-Defense

Critics Consensus

The Art of Self-Defense grapples compellingly with modern American masculinity -- and serves as an outstanding calling card for writer-director Riley Stearns.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 158

63%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 631
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Movie Info

After he's attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and hardcore brown belt Anna (Imogen Poots), Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei's mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor. Audacious and offbeat, The Art of Self-Defense is an original dark comedy that takes toxic masculinity to absurd extremes.

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Critic Reviews for The Art of Self-Defense

All Critics (158) | Top Critics (26) | Fresh (133) | Rotten (25)

  • The Art of Self-Defense weaves its time and themes until they're one and the same.

    January 17, 2020 | Full Review…

    Matt Cipolla

    The Spool
    Top Critic
  • ...aims for a very precise tone.

    January 6, 2020 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • As a vehicle for Eisenberg, the movie falls short. But its wonderful idea works. It's creepier than it looks. [Full review in Spanish].

    January 5, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • That it does not quite hit its target is unfortunate, but it does at least leave a watchable movie behind.

    December 2, 2019 | Rating: 6/10 | Full Review…
  • The Art of Self-Defense may be a dark comedy, but it is extremely intelligent when it comes to the subjects it addresses and represents on screen. [Full Review in Spanish]

    November 11, 2019 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…
  • It works even beyond its limitations or defects, which seem to be calculated. [Full review in Spanish]

    November 6, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Art of Self-Defense

  • Jan 17, 2020
    I went in expecting mumblecore, but got more of a Wes Anderson (which, to be fair, a primary influence of mumblecore). Wes Anderson almost always has violence in his movies, but probably nothing so brutal as The Art of Self-Defense. I thought that the whole movie would essentially be setting up Eisenberg as an awkward, meek nerd, who at the very end would go uber-violent, and the joke that they bothered to make a movie for would essentially be "You didn't think this guy would punch very good but then he does". Happy to say, I was wrong. Not only does Eisenberg punch pretty good on actually more than one occasion, there's also a story in The Art of Self-Defense as well, which I was not expecting. Now I still didn't think it was very good, and I definitely didn't think it was very funny, but my very low expectations were exceeded, so in the end I'm actually moderately happy with this one.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 23, 2019
    An interesting and quirky look at modern life, Eisenberg absolutely excellent as a hopeless urbanite, clueless as to why he doesn't connect with his fellow men - until he learns how to. Connect! Although quietly told this is a resonant work, auspicious for writer/director Riley Stearns.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer

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