A couple travels to Sweden to visit a rural hometown's fabled mid-summer festival. What begins as an idyllic retreat quickly devolves into an increasingly violent and bizarre competition at the hands of a pagan cult.
On the eve of their high school graduation, two academic superstars and best friends realize they should have worked less and played more. Determined not to fall short of their peers, the girls try to cram four years of fun into one night.
After he's attacked on the street at night by a roving motorcycle gang, timid bookkeeper Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) joins a neighborhood karate studio to learn how to protect himself. Under the watchful eye of a charismatic instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), and hardcore brown belt Anna (Imogen Poots), Casey gains a newfound sense of confidence for the first time in his life. But when he attends Sensei's mysterious night classes, he discovers a sinister world of fraternity, brutality and hyper-masculinity, presenting a journey that places him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor.Written by
'The Art of Self Defense' is a coming out party for writer/director Riley Stearns, who has not only overcome the obstacle of a sophomore feature film, but has completely vanquished the notion that it should pose a problem in the first place.
The key to his success? Time. Stearns' first feature film, 'Faults', debuted in 2014. That means he had five years (voluntarily or otherwise) to develop his next project. And the evidence of having that much time to fine tune and meticulously polish what would become 'The Art of Self Defense' is most evident in the writing, which is witty, funny, incisive, and without a shred of overwrought excess.
The film blends comedic elements-sometimes light, sometimes dark-with character study and sociology in a 'Karate Kid' meets 'Fight Club' mashup that is delightfully entertaining the entire way through. Despite some violence and a couple of injuries which could have been toned down to broaden the mass appeal of the film, achieving as much probably isn't Stearns' primary goal, and we expect both he and his trenchant film to garner a well-deserve cult following.
10 of 14 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this