‘The Art of Self-Defense’ Trailer: Jesse Eisenberg Grapples with Fragile Masculinity

     May 22, 2019


Bleecker Street has released the trailer for Riley Stearns’ new movie The Art of Self-Defense. The movie stars Jesse Eisenberg as a timid individual who feels afraid of everything so he decides to take up marital arts. However, his entry into this world leads him down a dark path thanks to his charismatic and mysterious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola).

I really enjoyed Stearns’ previous movie Faults (which is about a guy trying to de-program a cult member), and I love the premise here. The Art of Self-Defense seems to be grappling with fragile masculinity and how that masculinity becomes even more toxic as it embraces violence as a solution to other shortcomings. Here’s what Eric Vespe said about the film in his review from SXSW 2019:

Playing with a tone that falls somewhere between Napoleon Dynamite, Eastbound & Down and Fight Club, The Art of Self-Defense ends up being this uniquely weird thing that is compelling, funny and just dark enough to keep you on your toes.


Jesse Eisenberg thrives here. You can tell he’s totally in his element and relishes every second he gets to play with this quirky tone. Casey could very well be the most Jesse Eisenbergian character that has ever Jesse Eisenberged and it works so well against this backdrop of absurd humor.

Check out the trailer below. The film opens July 12th and also stars Imogen Poots.

Here’s the official synopsis for The Art of Self-Defense:

A dark comedy set in the world of karate. The film centers on Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), who is attacked at random on the street and enlists in a local dojo led by a charismatic and mysterious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), in an effort to learn how to defend himself. What he uncovers is a sinister world of fraternity, violence and hypermasculinity and a woman (Imogen Poots) fighting for her place in it. Casey undertakes a journey, both frightening and darkly funny, that will place him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor.

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