The Art of Self-Defense Reviews

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August 8, 2019
Starring Jesse Eisenberg as you've only seen him before.
July 29, 2019
Everything Stearns' script says about masculinity and gender dynamics is superficial and rudimentary, with few actual biting laughs amidst a film that's limp emotionally.
July 27, 2019
So ... what's the point? The downtrodden nebbish lived a resentful life, and, once empowered through karate, ruthlessly takes what he wants? Like sex-traffickers Keith Raniere and Jeffrey Epstein? How's their art of self-defense working out for them?
July 26, 2019
The Art of Self-Defense ultimately becomes a low-octane indie version of the '80s martial arts thriller that it's half-skewering but is saddled with too much rigid self-awareness and script baggage to fight freely.
July 23, 2019
At best a cartoonish lampoon, it exaggerates its nerdish protagonist and lacks needed, nuanced development.
July 19, 2019
Say what you will about Faults, but it knew where it was going and it stuck the landing with force. The Art Of Self-Defense, by comparison, feels pretty lightweight.
July 19, 2019
The film may be wisest (not to mention funniest) when it views maleness as a cult, but it's also clumsy for how it makes itself a proud member.
July 19, 2019
One potential downside to making a comedy this low-wattage is its stated banality. You might think you've created something underplayed and quirky, but it can just as easily settle into forgettable.
July 19, 2019
The Art of Self-Defense proves absorbing enough, but -- in the end -- [Riley] Stearns doesn't transcend the peculiar insularity he creates.
July 19, 2019
All the characters seem to be suffering from flat affect, speaking their stilted dialogue in a monotone that suggests they're as if they were as bored with it as we are.
July 19, 2019
By the end, the point has been defeated by the filmmaker's desire to be playfully weird above all else.
July 18, 2019
Mannered and remote, the movie throws a lot of punches but hardly ever connects.
July 18, 2019
Jesse Eisenberg steps into the dojo and gets in a few good licks at toxic masculinity before odious comparisons to Fight Club blunt the film's comic and dramatic impact.
July 17, 2019
The weird tone might placate fans of films like last year's Sorry to Bother You ... but [director Riley] Stearns can't quite assemble his ideas consistently enough to come out victorious.
July 17, 2019
A self-conscious descendant of "Fight Club" that ruminates on the state of modern masculinity; interesting if unfunny.
July 17, 2019
It's so repellant that it's truly energy-sapping.
July 16, 2019
By the time The Art of Self-Defense settles into its cool down, we're still not sure whether Stearns wants us to laugh or cringe.
July 16, 2019
[A]t times, the movie struggles to maintain the critical balance between detachment from and engagement with the thing it's making fun of.
Top Critic
July 16, 2019
I'm afraid none of this makes much valid sense. The movie fails to offer a cogent point of view.
July 15, 2019
Writer/director Riley Stearns strives for dark comedy intoned in Yorgos Lanthimos deadpan, but instead of pushing the absurdity of his uncanny valley universe, he succumbs to its lack of specificity.
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