The Art of Self Defense is one of those rare films that you walk in completely blind and find yourself absolutely in love. Jesse Eisenberg stars as Casey Davies, a loner, feminine male who struggles to connect to anyone but his dog and boss. When he returns from work one evening he realizes he has run out of dog food. Alone and unarmed he walks to the store at the middle of the night and on his way home he gets jumped by a group of motorcyclists who beat him to an inch of his life. With a new found fear of life, Casey sets out to learn self-defense at a local karate dojo. However, unbeknownst to him, an evil lurks in the shadows there.
To fully enjoy this film I recommend not knowing anything but the simply premise. The severe twist at the midpoint of the film is a complete and utter surprise. The films has one of the best scripts in recent memory. Every line feels important and necessary to the plot and jokes. From the very beginning you gather a sense of wit and attention to detail. Almost everything said and seen is integral to the film and keeps amplify it till the very end.
Jesse Eisenberg gives (in my opinion) his best performance to date. This is probably due to his actual person being fairly close to his character. His comedic timing and ability to deliver witty humor is excellent. Imogen Potts as Anna is pretty good. She has great moments and she is important to the plot but her performance isn’t one to run home about. Alessandro Nivola gives the best performance of the film as Sensei. His comedic timing is brilliant and his mannerisms and delivery is undeniably fantastic. He takes a fantastic script and elevates it which is the most important thing an actor can do.The score does its job and the cinematography looks great, however, neither have any room to really shine.
The Art of Self-Defense is one of my favorite films of the past decade and I urge anyone who likes witty, dark humor to watch this film immediately. The Art of Self-Defense is written and directed by Riley Stearns.