Satire

Review by David Baldwin

I have been trying to write a review for Riley Stearns’ The Art of Self-Defense for over a week now. I am at the point in my life where free time is slowly dwindling down, and adulthood and the responsibilities that come with it keep amping up. I do chores in and around the house, and by the time I get to writing, I just end up staring at a blank Word document and falling asleep. But in all of that time, I have not stopped thinking about Stearns’ film. It has lingered at the back of my mind, popping up when I least expect it and bringing me snide joy more times than I can count.

And I would like to think that would make Sensei proud. But I also think that he would consider me less of a man for feeling this way. Probably even less than that for using the words “snide joy” in a sentence.

If reading that sounds a bit toxic, offensive and more than slightly emasculating, than The Art of Self-Defense may not be for you. The tale of Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), his desire to learn how to defend himself, and his admiration and later obsession with the local dojo run by Sensei (Alessandro Nivola) starts off innocuously and humourously enough. But around the halfway mark, it jumps the rails and morphs into the bleakest, darkest satire imaginable – something that practically wrecks of toxic fumes. And it happens to be one of the funniest comedies of the year thus far.

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