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: 154

63%

Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 630
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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 (154) | Top Critics (26) | Fresh (129) | Rotten (25)

  • Bold but inconsistent, outrageous but not all that shocking, The Art of Self Defense never reaches its full potential, but lands more than enough punches to warrant our attention.

    Jul 19, 2019 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • It's tempting to imagine that writer-director Riley Stearns caught a screening of the supremely feel-good The Karate Kid and thought, "Yeah, I can make the opposite of that."

    Jul 19, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • If offbeat is the goal, Stearns earns his black belt.

    Jul 19, 2019 | Rating: B | Full Review…
  • Stearns' satire is mostly of the blunt-force variety.

    Jul 19, 2019 | Full Review…
  • The film's calm brutality is effective. Plot-wise, some punches are telegraphed, while others are not. The satire is a spinning wheel kick I didn't see coming. Black belts all around.

    Jul 18, 2019 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Mannered and remote, the movie throws a lot of punches but hardly ever connects.

    Jul 18, 2019 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Art of Self-Defense

  • 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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