The Art of Self-Defense

Riley Stearns, USA 2019, 104’
Polish premiere
Seberg The Climb

Casey is practically invisible. He is sensitive and lonely. He listens to soft rock, dreams about travelling to France and his only friend is his dachshund dog. Colleagues make fun of him but still, he has no enemies. But one day he is brutally mugged and hardly survives. As a way of recovery from trauma, he starts learning karate. He quickly grows in the dojo hierarchy and thus learns how to be a "real man" (an alpha male listens to heavy metal, drinks black coffee and owns a German shepherd, not a wiener-dog!). The Art of Self-Defense is a strong statement in a discussion on disappearing masculinity and access to guns in the US. It is also an exquisite joke on a traditional understanding of gender differences. Thanks to perfect casting of Jesse Eisenberg, whose facial expression equals that of genius of dead-pan comedy, Buster Keaton, this story of American individualism pushed to the extreme turns truly sarcastic and funny.

Urszula Śniegowska

Riley Stearns

Riley Stearns is from Austin, Texas. His short The Cub played at Sundance Film Festival in 2013. His feature debut Faults premiered at SXSW in 2014 and was released theatrically. He was a writer on My Own Worst Enemy and Tower Prep. He is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.


2014 Faults

2019 Sztuka samoobrony / The Art of Self-Defense

Cast & Crew

director Riley Stearns
screenplay Riley Stearns
cinematography Michael Ragen
editing Sarah Beth Shapiro
music Heather McIntosh
cast Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots, Steve Terada
producer Andrew Kortschak, Walter Kortschak, Cody Ryder, Stephanie Whonsetler
production End Cue
sales Universal/Park Circus
language English
coloration colour
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