Jesse Eisenberg is scared of everything and wants to learn karate in the teaser trailer for The Art of Self-Defense. The dark comedy was written and directed by Faults director Riley Stearns, who put some of his personal martial arts experiences into the movie, which goes on to question masculinity in that culture. Eisenberg’s Casey character finds himself asking a lot of the same questions that Stearns asked himself when he was starting out with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
The Art of Self Defense is a dark comedy set in the world of karate (Riley Stearns thought that karate would translate better than Jiu-Jitsu). The story centres on Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), who is attacked randomly on the street and enlists in a local dojo led by a charismatic and mysterious Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), in an effort to learn how to defend himself.
What he uncovers is a sinister world of fraternity, violence, and hypermasculinity, along with a woman (Imogen Poots) fighting for her place in it. Casey undertakes a journey, both frightening and darkly funny, that will place him squarely in the sights of his enigmatic new mentor.
In The Art of Self Defense teaser trailer, Jesse Eisenberg’s Casey is a frightened character. While at the dojo and asked why he wants to learn karate, Casey says, “I’m afraid of the dark. I’m afraid of other men.” He goes on to say, “They intimidate me. I want to be what intimidates me.” From there, we are sent a bunch of disturbing imagery of violence mixed with some very dark humour as Casey starts learning how to navigate his new surroundings. From the looks of things, he might take it one or two steps too far.
When asked about why he wanted to make The Art of Self Defense, Riley Stearns says he wanted to try “exploring ideas that maybe you wouldn’t think to explore in a martial arts movie.” This definitely is not a remake of The Karate Kid, that is for sure. Stearns went on to say that the characters are embracing a little bit of the darkness within themselves as the movie goes along, which is hinted at heavily in the teaser trailer.
Riley Stearns isn’t taking apart the world of martial arts either. It’s something that he really respects and practices, but he is going deep into what makes that world tick in The Art of Self Defense. One of Stearns’ favourite parts about martial arts is that you don’t necessarily need to be the biggest guy on the mat. Stearns says he likes that “the smaller guy could use leverage and technique to beat the bigger guy.” The movie is all set to premiere at SXSW tomorrow, Sunday, March 10th. It will then premiere in theatres on June 21st. You can watch the teaser trailer for The Art of Self Defense below, thanks to the Bleecker Street YouTube channel.