'The Art of Self Defense' Review: Smart, Funny, and Sharp as a Samurai Sword
‘The Art of Self Defense’ is a coming out party for writer/director Riley Stearns, who has not only overcome the obstacle of a sophomore feature film, but has completely vanquished the notion that it should pose a problem in the first place.
The key to his success? Time. Stearns’ first feature film, ‘Faults’, debuted in 2014. That means he had five years (voluntarily or otherwise) to develop his next project. And the evidence of having that much time to fine tune and meticulously polish what would become ‘The Art of Self Defense’ is most evident in the writing, which is witty, funny, incisive, and without a shred of overwrought excess.
The film blends comedic elements—sometimes light, sometimes dark—with character study and sociology in a ‘Karate Kid’ meets ‘Fight Club’ mashup that is delightfully entertaining the entire way through. Despite some violence and a couple of injuries which could have been toned down to broaden the mass appeal of the film, achieving as much probably isn’t Stearns’ primary goal, and we expect both he and his trenchant film to garner a well-deserve cult following.