The Art of Self-Defense (2019) Movie Review

Director: Riley Stearns

Writer: Riley Stearns (Screenplay)

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots, Steve Terada, David Zellner, Phillip Andre Botello

Plot: After being attacked on the street, a young man enlists at a local dojo, led by a charismatic and mysterious sensei, in an effort to learn how to defend himself from future threats.

Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes

There may be spoilers in the rest of the review

Verdict: Very Dark Comedy

Story: The Art of Self-Defence starts when shy man Casey (Eisenberg) gets brutally attack on a trip to the local shop, he takes time to recover, looking for a solution on what could help him if this was to happen again, first looking at buying a gun, before learning about karate.

Casey starts to learn under Sensei (Nivola), which see him learn a new discipline, only this comes at a cost for him, with his career being ignored as he continues to try and improve in the art of self-defence, which will lead him to go to levels he never understood karate would offer.

Thoughts on The Art of Self-Defence

Characters – Casey is a shy man that has always let people walk all over him, he ends up getting attacked, left for dead. He becomes more terrified about life, turning to different forms of self-defence, which sees him take up karate, making this his whole life, until he is pushed to new limits about what happened. Sensei runs the dojo and lets Casey join his classes, he sees potential in him and understands that he can get the best out of his pupil, even if he does have much darker motivations in how he gets the students involved. Anna is the only woman in the class, she is the best student but is always looked down on by the Sensei who doesn’t believe a woman is good enough to compete with the men, she is devoted to the dojo.

PerformancesJesse Eisenberg is great in the leading role, easily being one of his best performances in years, Alessandro Nivola is cold through the film, which makes him so interesting to watch. Imogen Poots fills the supporting role well through the film, showing the silent battle her character has always been through.

StoryThe story here follows a shy man that gets attacked and turns to karate in hope of being able to stand up for himself more in the future, only to learn a truth about the Sensei. This does show how one person will need to learn to stand up for themselves and find a new outlet, one that will take over his life, showing how obsession will become unhealthy. The story is constructed to give us a surprise in how everything unfolds, while also making a point that each scene is worth the investment.

Comedy/CrimeThe comedy is truly dark in how everything unfolds, it works wonders for the film as it also reflects the criminal nature of the dojo.

SettingsThe film uses the settings to show us how Casey only has a couple of locations he attends in life, showing how empty he can find his life.

Scene of the Movie – Fight to the death.

That Moment That Annoyed Me – Who looked after Casey’s dog when he was in hospital?

Final Thoughts This is a truly dark comedy that delivers on every note he plans, each scene has meaning, which will get the pay off through the film.

Overall: Clever Dark Comedy.

ABC Film Challenge – Action – P – Paparazzi (2004)

Director: Paul Abascal

Writer: Forry Smith (Screenplay)

Starring: Cole Hauser, Robin Tunney, Dennis Farina, Daniel Baldwin, Tom Hollander, Kevin Gage, Tom Sizemore


Plot: A rising Hollywood actor decides to take personal revenge against a group of four persistent photographers to make them pay for almost causing a personal tragedy involving his wife and son.

Tagline – It’s time to settle the score.

Runtime: 1 Hour 24 Minutes


There may be spoilers in the rest of the review


Verdict: Flashy Action Flick


Story: Paparazzi starts when rising star Bo Laramie (Hauser) has his break out action film, seeing him become an overnight sensation in Hollywood. This new fame brings more cameras on his life, with vultures known as the paparazzi, while most respect his privacy, one group led by Rex Harper (Sizemore) push the boundaries, trying to take photos of his family, Abby (Tunney) and son Zach.

When the vultures push Bo into a car chase, his family is injured in a car crash, turning Bo to the police trying to get them away from his family. The rivalry between Bo and Rex starts putting Bo’s new career in danger, forcing him to make his own plans to end the paparazzi following them.


Thoughts on Paparazzi


Characters – Bo Laramie is a rising star in Hollywood, he is about to have his first hit making him an overnight sensation, the talk of the town. He is also a family man off the screen, finding it difficult for him to balance the celebrity lifestyle and personal on. He gets targeted by the paparazzi, who want to bring him down, trying to hurt his family, he will do what needs to be done to keep his family safe against the paparazzi. Abby is the wife of Bo, she is a teacher and isn’t prepared for the gossip magazines that are showing the life of her family. Rex Harper is the leader of the paparazzi ring, he knows how the push the buttons of Bo to gather more stories and starts targeting him after he learns that he has triggered him.

PerformancesCola Hauser does give us a strong performance in the leading role, he look like a typical movie star which was needed for this role. Robin Tunney is the concerned wife, she does everything needed without doing too much difficult. Tom Sizemore does make for great pick for a seedy paparazzi reporter, you believe he is trying to make the life hard for Bo. Dennis Farina as the detective plays right into his wheelhouse as a former police officer.

StoryThe story follows a rising Hollywood star who becomes the target for the paparazzi who try to make his life a living hell, until they injury his family forcing him into his own revenge against them. This does fall into the revenge thriller which gets played along with a celebrity dealing with somebody trying to risk his family for a couple of photos in a magazine. The idea the celebrity is getting followed around by the paparazzi isn’t new, we do get cameos from actors that have had issues in the past too. This plays out just like you would imagine and will make you care about the characters motives being against the vulture like paparazzies.

Action/CrimeThe action in the film is restrained because we can’t have anything over the top, it is mostly small fights and chases. The crime side of the film shows just how the life of the actor is being affected by the criminal actions of the paparazzi.

SettingsThe film is set in LA which is the place where you would see the most type of paparazzi behaviour like this.

Scene of the Movie –
Rex learns his fate.

That Moment That Annoyed Me The police would surely be able to offer more than they give Bo in this film.

Final ThoughtsThis is a great look at how the paparazzi look to try and control the celebrities with photos and just how they will look to get revenge for risking their family.


Overall: Great action thriller.