The Art of Self Defense Review

*Not a ton of plot spoilers but I like to add this in just in case.

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In the world of reboots and re imaginings that we are living in, sometimes it is nice just to sit back and watch a fresh story take place. There is a lot you can say about The Art of Self Defense and the first thing I will say it that it is definitely original. I will also say that, Directed by Riley Stearns, this is a very well made and interesting movie to think about in this summer of Super Heroes and talking animals. What I learned about this as well is that Riley Stearns is an avid Jiu Jitsu Practitioner, so he knows what he is talking about and brings that knowledge to the fight scenes.

The Art of Self Defense is a black comedy about Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) who is an accountant who is lonely and is kind of soft (for lack of a better word). One night while getting Dog Food he is mugged and beaten close to his death kinda like Welcome to Marwen. Instead of creating a fake town though, he takes up Karate and quickly learns that the studio, and particularly the Sensei (Allesandro Nivolo) has a much darker situation happening.

This is a methodical movie, and is filmed at a slower but enjoyable pace. As a viewer you have a lot of questions throughout the first half of the movie, that they clarify as the movie rolls along. This gives Eisenberg and Nivolo to set the stage for the tone and their characters only to have it completely shift on you halfway through.

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Stock Up – Jesse Eisenberg is easily one of the most underrated actors of the last ten years. After breaking out in The Social Network he has had great roles in, Now You See Me 1/2, Zombieland, Batman vs. Superman, and many more. This is a smaller movie than those but he still gives a very introspective performance, and makes me root for his character no matter what actions he takes. He is also hilarious in oh so subtle ways and his Karate is not too shabby as well.

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Stock Up – Allesandro Nivolo is a guy I had only seen as Nic Cage’s brother in Face/Off, and as a Futbol superstar in the Goal! series. This was an amazing turn for him as the Sensei of the gym and he really showed his full range of acting capabilities. He is someone I could see spiraling this into a second act in his career.

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*A couple other tidbits

  • Why are they teaching Jiu Jitsu at the Karate studio? Seems more like an MMA gym to be honest.
  • Imogen Poots was great as the secondary teacher at the gym. She was subtle yet vicious and would love to see more of her.
  • The Music was phenomenal the whole way through this so shout out Heather McIntosh.

This movie really made me think about myself and the things I do every day to keep me in the right state of mind. Riley Stearns created an artful, compact, and unique film and we need more of this in our cinemas. These are the types of movies people should seek out if they are sick of Superheroes and remakes.

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Juice Rating:

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*All of my Movie Ratings can be found here.

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