In Riley Stearns’ dark comedy, The Art of Self-Defense, Jesse Eisenberg plays Casey, a milquetoast office drone with no social skills a no friends outside of his dachshund, joins an agro karate dojo to learn to defend himself and become what he fears.
A caricature of toxic masculinity that watches like a navelgazing, mumblecore Fight Club, Self-Defense uses zero subtlety as aesthetic affectation. Characters speak what sounds like stage notes read aloud. Frankly tedious in the early going, the film finds itself in the middle ground, only to whiff the landing. Partially becoming what it seeks to lampoon, it hopes a last-minute turn provides substance. SPOILER: It doesn’t.