And A Rear View Mirror
Don’t get me wrong, I am down with trips to see the Summer Blockbuster Sequels, Re-makes and Prequels, kids in tow and everyone knowing what to expect.
The Lion King, a film with huge promotion and advertising, and, in spite of the critics complaining about it being a computer generated clone, story wise, will nevertheless kill at the box office, Toy Story 4, an always skillful addition to the long and vaunted story of Toy Story, Spider-man: Far From Home, where nobody knows what number this sequel is, 6(?), by now we just pay and watch.
All of these are perfectly ok, solid summer tent pole fare, and only those living under a proverbial rock could miss seeing them at some point this season.
But an entertainingly ridiculous, and yet dark and even topical film (addressing “toxic masculinity” as a problem and a punch line at the same time), that has no superheroes and no computer generated kitty cats? That, I admit, I did not see coming.
Never mind that Jesse Eisenberg has played a Super Villain in a Superhero movie (no, I don’t mean Zuckerberg although that’s a good point), as Lex Luther in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and in the recently announced Justice League Part Two.
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Dark, Meaningful and Insanely Funny
“The Art of Self Defense”, currently in theaters, is the second film by writer / director Riley Sterns and stars Eisenberg who plays Casey Davies, an introverted, passive weakling who, after being attacked by a gang, is inspired to search for self defense methods.
After exploring the possibility of arming himself, he happens across an advertisement for a karate dojo.
This, inevitably, leads to a continuous transformation as the weakling gains not only skills of self defense, but goes on a wild ride into the universe of aggression and toxic masculinity that is at once incredible entertaining, tremendously funny and also, somehow, unsettling. It carries an altered tone in light of the recent explosion of animalistic behavior exposed from the likes of Weinstein, JefferyEpstein, and the guy in the White House.
A SEQUEL TO KARATE KID? Ha Ha, Nope
Alessandro Nivola is spot-on as the charismatic Sensei, while Imogen Poots is the perfect macho-chick foil as Anna, but the film ultimately rests on, and revolves around, it’s identity as the perfect vehicle for Eisenberg’s trademarked awkward, meekness. A meekness that belies a dark, yet thoughtful intensity beneath.
In a world of endless super hero sequels and remakes, I don’t about you, but for this scribe, a dark, intense and absoforkinglutely hilarious indie comedy is a powerfully satisfying and welcome break from all that, and some of the dire realities of our world as well.
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