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Riley Stearns
Riley Stearns
Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, Imogen Poots
End Cue
1h 44min
Action, Comedy, Crime
English, French, German
Awards, 5 nominations
sensei,self defense class,traumatized man,suicide,male nudity
Film ThreatBobby LePire

The Art Of Self Defense is set in a very peculiar world populated by eccentric characters. While that might turn some off, due to the vision of director Riley Stearns and his incredible production team, as well as a top-notch cast, the movie is as hilarious as it is unpredictable. It emerges as a strong early contender for best film of the year.

VarietyPeter Debruge

This singular black comedy balances off-kilter humor with an unexpectedly thriller-esque undercurrent, to the extent that audiences will find it tough to anticipate either the jokes or the dark, “Fight Club”-like turn things eventually take — all to strikingly original effect.

IndieWireEric Kohn

Stearns’ tone involves a tricky negotiation between the melancholy and the macabre. “The Art of Self-Defense” doesn’t always pull that balance off, but it has enough ambition and wacky payoff to make the zany gamble worthwhile.

ConsequenceRandall Colburn

A singular work, brimming with ideas, by a budding visionary with a hell of a lot to say.

The Film StageJohn Fink

When the film works it veers into the domain of the uncomfortably hilarious as the maladjusted becomes a malcontent without a choice.

San Francisco ChronicleMick LaSalle

Written and directed by Riley Stearns, The Art of Self-Defense brings out a particularly skillful performance from Eisenberg, whose job is to harmonize the film’s odd shifts in tone and make something real and heartfelt of the central character’s journey.

The Hollywood ReporterJohn DeFore

While the beats of its plot may be nothing very new, the tone, language and performances here make Self-Defense its own beast.

The PlaylistRyan Oliver

While slight, yet accurate in his thesis, Stearns does what any good filmmaker should do to make that message stick: he makes us laugh.

The A.V. ClubJesse Hassenger

In a movie that often observes male dysfunction with some ironic distance, Eisenberg brings the satire closer to the bone.

New York PostJohnny Oleksinski

Director and writer Riley Stearns’ mediocre comedy aims to be a roundhouse kick at traditional masculinity, but doesn’t manage to take it down in any deep or insightful way.

Munich Film Festival2019

2019 Nominee CineVision Award, Riley Stearns

Chlotrudis Awards2020

2020 Nominee Chlotrudis Award, Alessandro Nivola

Strasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival2019

2019 Nominee Crossovers Prize, Riley Stearns

Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival2019

2019 Nominee Bucheon Choice Award, Riley Stearns

Americana Film Fest2020

2020 Nominee Audience Award, Riley Stearns