'The Art of Self-Defense' Review

'The Art of Self-Defense' Review
A Surreal, Deadpan Black Comedy

Rating: ★★★★½

Very much in the vein of Yorgos Lanthimos' style and 'Fight Club', Riley Stearns' 'The Art of Self-Defense' is a deadpan black comedy starring Jessie Eisenberg in the lead role as Casey, a weak and testosterone-low man who is attacked at random while returning home with dog food. In an effort to learn how to defend himself, he joins a local dojo led by the charismatic and mysterious Sensi. What follows is a satirical look at gender roles, toxic masculinity and trauma.
Stearns delivers a film that is both predictable yet completely unexpected, funny with its cringe comedy and dry sense of dark humour while simultaneously shocking with its brutal scenes of violence and unsettling exploration of its subject matters.
Eisenberg gives us one of the best performances of his career, Imogen Poots continues to be a godsend for the indie film industry and Alessandro Nivola portrays Sensi with a sense of unease. There isn't a weak link in the lead and supporting cast, but with their performances combined with the minimalistic yet bizarre production design and on-the-nose dialogue, this film is given a tone that is both surreal and hilarious.
With Stearns' impeccable direction, off-kilter performances from the cast and blunt writing, the satire 'The Art of Self-Defense' works in spades, but isn't for everyone.