6.7/10
24,840
253 user 128 critic

The Art of Self-Defense (2019)

Trailer
2:29 | Trailer
After being attacked on the street, a young man enlists at a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei, in an effort to learn how to defend himself from future threats.

Director:

Riley Stearns

Writer:

Riley Stearns
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Popularity
2,333 ( 321)
5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Jesse Eisenberg ... Casey
Alessandro Nivola ... Sensei
Imogen Poots ... Anna
Steve Terada ... Thomas
David Zellner ... Henry
Phillip Andre Botello ... Kennith
Jason Burkey ... Alex
Mike Brooks Mike Brooks ... Steve
C.J. Rush ... Other Steve (as CJ Rush)
Davey Johnson ... Gun Store Owner
Hauke Bahr ... Grant
Katherine Martin Katherine Martin ... Bakery Woman
Cameron Murphy ... New White Belt (as Patrick Cameron Murphy)
Nicholas Hulstine Nicholas Hulstine ... Pickup Truck Driver
Lena Friedrich Lena Friedrich ... French Girl
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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


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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Did You Know?

Trivia

This movie was shot in Kentucky See more »

Quotes

Casey: I'm going to kill you, Leslie.
[Sensei looks at Casey with surprise]
Casey: That's right. I found out your real name is Leslie. I called you that to make you angry. When you think about it, Leslie is a lot more feminine sounding than Casey.
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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 »

Soundtracks

Burst Synapse
Performed by Full of Hell
Written by Full of Hell
Courtesy of Profound Lore Records
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User Reviews

 
Underwhelming
9 July 2019 | by ofumalowSee all my reviews

I like Eisenberg and Nivola, so I was primed to enjoy this, but what a letdown. It starts off with a decent droll tenor, even if the humor is pretty lame and the story very simplistic (fraidity-cat nerd gets mugged, then gets empowered in karate class). But rather than evolving into something more interesting, the film just gets mean-spirited without truly going "dark," with improbable developments and insufficient depth to pull them off. Characters who turn out to be sorta evil remain cartoonish, so there's no punch to the revelations.

This is neither a farce or a "black comedy," just some tepid compromise between, and it wastes some very good actors. You've seen Eisenberg playing a dweeb before--he's certainly good at it, but this movie doesn't bring out anything new--while Nivola, who's normally terrific, is neither very funny or sufficiently threatening in a role that calls for both. Likewise Imogen Poots and David Zellner get one-note roles. I don't know what this movie was trying for, but it didn't work for me. I would have rated it lower (because I really did wind up disliking it), but in technical and acting terms the filmmaking was competent enough to give it a medium grade.


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Details

Official Sites:

Official site

Country:

USA

Language:

English | French | German

Release Date:

19 July 2019 (USA) 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:

$2,414,269
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
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