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The Art of Self-Defense (2019)

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In 15 theaters near Ashburn VA US [change]

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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66 ( 21)
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 | Add 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:

10 March 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, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$1,370,464, 22 July 2019
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

End Cue See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

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 »

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User Reviews

 
What does it mean to be strong?
18 July 2019 | by CharlesAncelleSee all my reviews

The Art of Self-Defense has a lot more to offer than the good old fun it seems to be at first. It follows the story of Casey, a nerdy accountant with very little social skill, and a total pushover by every possible measure, a role which, obviously, fits Jesse Eisemberg perfectly.

Casey doesn't have much going on in his life, but on the surface, he seems perfectly content to let other people step all over him. As long as they leave him alone for the most part, he's happy to go on with his frighteningly boring routine.

However, one night, Casey gets attacked by a mob of a few bikers, who mug him and mostly beat him up badly enough to send him to the hospital. After his painful recovery, Casey stumbles upon a Karate class, and decides to join it. But the eccentric Sensei (Alessandro Nivola) soon turns out to have a lot more to teach than Karate moves - he teaches an entire way of life, one that will put Casey on an entirely new path, one that threatens to change him to the very core.

Now it would be easy to summarize the film as a satire on hypermasculinity, but yes, on the surface, what Sensei is preaching is essentially for his pupils to become some sort of hyper virile, violent beings defined only by their strength - and the film is pushing this to the extreme and spinning it on its head to hilarious effect. But on a deeper level, what this is really about is Casey's journey from being weak, to being strong, and what are the moral repercussions of exerting that strength. What does it mean to stand up for oneself, and then for others? In many aspects, what the film explores is how strength and its intrinsic values lead to various forms of conflict, to confrontation, and what are the consequences of dealing with these forms of conflict?

All I can say without spoiling, is that the film explores this theme with a fresh, and most often, hilarious point of view, and it's definitely worth seeing for that reason, if not for the terrific performances of the leads (including Imogen Poots, who I didn't get a chance to mention to avoid spoilers).


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