SIFF 2019: "The Art of Self-Defense" + Q&A Session W/ Director Riley Stearns
After enjoying Jesse Eisenberg in his recent film The Hummingbird Project at VIFF 2018, I was excited to see another movie with him as lead screening at SIFF 2019. The Art of Self-Defense, however, is a very different kind of film; a dark comedy that tries to perfectly balance the “dark” with the “comedy” in a compelling narrative, and absolutely succeeds.
After falling victim to a random mugging, shy and awkward Casey played by Eisenberg takes martial arts classes to learn self-defense. The classes empower him, maybe even more than intended, but as he becomes more invested in the activity, he eventually learns that there are more sadistic ideologies motivating the operation of this dojo.
This is one of those films that’s meant to be infuriating. Casey is subjected to bullying, street violence, and toxic masculinity in undeniably vicious ways. But the film takes these hot-button topics and uses them as a catalyst for intriguing character development in Casey.
What I liked most about the film though is its captivating style of storytelling. Writer and director Riley Stearns plants seemingly irrelevant pieces of information throughout the narrative that eventually resurface later in the film. That full circle effect endows the film with a major sense of satisfaction…not to mention big payoff by the end.
With solid pacing, excellent camera work, and a punctual script, The Art of Self-Defense distinguishes itself in many ways. So as Casey learns the art of self defense, the film demonstrates the art of exceptional entertainment.
Acting and Casting - 2 | Visual Effects and Editing - 2 | Story and Message - 2 | Entertainment Value - 2 | Music Score and Soundtrack - 2 | Reviewer's Preference - 2 | What does this mean?