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The Art of Self-Defense

critic Reviews

84%
  • The Art of Self-Defense grapples compellingly with modern American masculinity -- and serves as an outstanding calling card for writer-director Riley Stearns.
  • Richard RoeperChicago Sun-Times
    Bold but inconsistent, outrageous but not all that shocking, The Art of Self Defense never reaches its full potential, but lands more than enough punches to warrant our attention.
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  • Matthew LickonaSan Diego Reader
    It's tempting to imagine that writer-director Riley Stearns caught a screening of the supremely feel-good The Karate Kid and thought, "Yeah, I can make the opposite of that."
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  • Adam GrahamDetroit News
    If offbeat is the goal, Stearns earns his black belt.
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  • David SimsThe Atlantic
    Stearns' satire is mostly of the blunt-force variety.
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  • Brad WheelerGlobe and Mail
    The film's calm brutality is effective. Plot-wise, some punches are telegraphed, while others are not. The satire is a spinning wheel kick I didn't see coming. Black belts all around.
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  • Ty BurrBoston Globe
    Mannered and remote, the movie throws a lot of punches but hardly ever connects.
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  • Rob ThomasCapital Times (Madison, WI)
    The film punctuates dry, mannered dialogue with sudden moments of utter weirdness that sweep our legs out from under us and leave us on the mat.
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  • tt stern-enziCincinnati CityBeat
    [Jesse] Eisenberg has learned the rules of acting... He appreciates the darkness in this art form and has been able to weaponize it, employing it to steal power. Casey, in The Art of Self-Defense, proves to be a quick study as well.
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  • Brad KeefeColumbus Alive
    If you like your humor as dry as unbuttered toast, it's also one of the funniest movies of the summer. Stearns adds violence as both punctuation and commentary.
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  • Rene SanchezCine Sin Fronteras
    A deadpan, dark and violent comedy about toxic masculinity in today's society. Jesse Eisenberg and Alessandro Nivola are terrific. [Full review in Spanish]
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