7.4/10
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The Art of Self-Defense (2019)

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2:29 | Trailer
A man is attacked at random on the street. He enlists at a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei, in an effort to learn how to defend himself.

Director:

Riley Stearns

Writer:

Riley Stearns
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2,205 ( 466)
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Jesse Eisenberg ... Casey
Alessandro Nivola ... Sensei
Imogen Poots ... Anna
Steve Terada ... Thomas
Phillip Andre Botello ... Kennith
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Caroline Amiguet ... French Audio Instructor (voice)
Apollo Bacala ... Karate Day Class Student
Hauke Bahr ... Grant
Jason Burkey ... Alex
Justin Eaton ... Lone Man
Dallas Edwards ... Manny
Will Ellis Jr. Will Ellis Jr. ... Night Class Student
Josh Fadem ... Serial Killer
John French ... Office Worker
Darren Gaebel Darren Gaebel ... Karate Night Class Student
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Storyline

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. Written by Bleecker Street

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

self defence | sensei | dojo | See All (3) »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, sexual content, graphic nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | German

Release Date:

1 November 2019 (Mexico) See more »

Also Known As:

The Art of Self-Defense See more »

Filming Locations:

Louisville, Kentucky, USA

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$114,374, 14 July 2019

Gross USA:

$2,410,914

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$2,411,846
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

End Cue See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

DOJO RULES: 1. No shoes on the mat. 2. No food or drinks on the mat. 3. Bow when stepping on/off the mat. 4. Always bring your belt. 5. Wash your gi. 6. Respect your opponent. 7. Tap or hear it snap. 8. Tap or take a nap. 9. Stay hydrated. 10. If it works, use it. 11. Guns are for the weak. See more »

Crazy Credits

SPOILER: The wall of the dojo is shown. Next to the Grand Master is now a photo of Casey's deceased dachshund. He can be heard in the background teaching the children's class. See more »

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User Reviews

 
Squirmy
28 August 2019 | by evanston_dadSee all my reviews

Squirmy to the extreme, "The Art of Self-Defense" exists in an off-kilter world a hair or two removed from the one we actually know and live in, and creates a dead-pan comedy of sorts out of incredibly uncomfortable material. I might have thought Yorgos Lanthimos directed this film if I knew for sure that he didn't.

Jesse Eisenberg is a wimpy dude who finds a mentor in Alessandro Nivola, owner of a karate dojo who teaches him how to better protect himself after he's physically assaulted. But he teaches him much more than that. He teaches him how to be a man with a capital "M," which means he must start listening to thrash metal, get a bigger, scarier dog, and take his aggressions out on the weak. It's a bit of a Frankenstein's monster story really, as the person Eisenberg evolves into decides he needs to destroy his creator.

The reasons behind that decision are revealed in a twist that doesn't come as especially surprising and is dealt with a bit awkwardly by the film's screenplay, and I thought the movie became messier and less satisfying the further it got into its running time. But originality goes a long way with me, and it's easy to see how "The Art of Self-Defense" is preoccupied with white male anger and fear and the way in which those feelings turn people and cultures toxic, so in addition to being original the film also has the benefit of feeling incredibly relevant.

Grade: A-


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