Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), a shy and submissive accountant unable to break free from his small and maniacal universe, is attacked one night in the middle of the street by a motorcycle gang. Overcome by the situation, angry and embarrassed, he decides to join a karate dojo in his neighborhood so he can defend himself in the future. There, he meets his instructor, Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), a quiet man with indecipherable methods. Fascinated by him, Casey acquires a new sense of confidence for the first time in his life and begins to change his habits, his personality, his behavior. But things will take a wrong turn once he starts attending the mysterious “Night Class” at the academy. There, he will discover a hidden world in which brutality takes over the karate students. The ones who were assaulted begin to feel like assaulting. And what comes around goes around. In the end, the unpredictable happens and madness breaks loose…
Riley Stearns, whose debut feature Faults – an addictive and unpredictable thriller – was screened at Americana in 2015, returns to the festival with his second feature, a personal and curious film with many layers, sarcasm, deadpan humor and social criticism of the mad world in which we live. Stearns wrote the script which features scenes of pure gold and allows for impressive performance from the cast, including the ever-astonishing Jesse Eisenberg in another of his radically bizarre portrayal, and an amazing Alessandro Nivola, who has worked with directors like Lynne Ramsay, Sebastián Lelio, David O. Russell or Nicolas Winding Refn and shines in this excellent supporting role as an unclassifiable karate teacher, half-way between a cult leader and a nutcase. Loaded with brutal dark humor, The Art of Self-Defense is destined to become an instant cult movie.

2019: Sundance Film Festival

Year: 2019 Runtime: 104 min Country: USA Direction: Riley Stearns Screenplay: Riley Stearns Cinematography: Michael Ragen OST: Heather McIntosh Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots Genre: Comedy Language: 6/03 VOSC | 7/03 VOSE Subtitles: CA: Savinen | ES: Maria Riu Contact: Park Circus