THE ART OF SELF-DEFENSE is an odd little indie comedy about karate. I wondered if it would be too similar to THE FOOT FIST WAY, the early Danny McBride movie that jibed so well with my sense of humor that when I first rented it I watched it two times in a row. Come to think of it, this movie’s sensei (Alessandro Nivola, AMERICAN HUSTLE) has a philosophy of punching like a kick and kicking like a punch, whatever that means, and that could be called a “foot fist way.” But this is a very different movie. The humor is very dry, the dialogue seems precise as opposed to improvised, and the protagonist is a timid nerd who transforms rather than a blowhard who is just a total asshole from the beginning.
The timid nerd is Casey Davies (Jesse Eisenberg, CURSED), an awkward accountant for an unnamed company. The bros in the break room don’t appreciate him trying to join their conversations, his best friend is his dachshund, and he gets stomped by random motorcyclists while trying to buy dog food. I love the slightly surreal touches that convey his loneliness: the news report that describes him as “a 35 year old dog owner,” the robotic answering machine voice that says “you have only 1 message.” (Though not obviously tied to a specific time period, it’s one with audio cassettes, fat-ass analog TVs and large camcorders with carrying bags.) (read the rest of this shit…)
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.