Review: The Art of Self-Defense (Fantasia 2019)


Title: The Art of Self-Defense
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Riley Stearns
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots
Runtime: 1 hr 44 mins

What is it: 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.

What we think: Despite this film being classified as a comedy, there is some uncertainty as to whether or not this film is truly a comedic film. Yes, there were some funny moments present and I can understand why some may find this movie funny. A good portion of the laughs mostly came from how the main character acts and speaks but in all honesty, I personally feel that the trailer was funnier than the movie itself. With that said, this is not my type of comedy. I felt there was too much graphic content that was unnecessary to which I can only assume was added to the story simply for shock value since I was more disturbed by the graphic content than amused by it. The character known as “sensei” really struck a nerve given his sexist and misogynist attitude and what he was teaching under the disguise of calling it “karate”.  It made me a tad bit worried that if a child were to watch this film they might try and repeat what they see from this movie into the real world. Either that or become afraid of taking up this particular form of Self-Defense because of what is shown in this movie strictly for shock value.

Our grade: D, This film might be absolutely hysterical for some viewers but definitely not my favorite comedy. I would never tell someone not to watch this film but I would definitely caution them given the graphic content present. I would also be careful with letting children watch this film. Special thanks to Fantasia 2019 for allowing us to screen this one!

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