Jesse Eisenberg comedy lacks kick – Fixie News
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Jesse Eisenberg comedy lacks kick

Jesse Eisenberg has gone from Facebook to face-kick.

In “The Art of Self-Defense,” the “Social Network” actor plays a depressed, bookish accountant named Casey who audits expense reports as he’s ruthlessly mocked by his more manly co-workers.

One night while walking to the store to buy food for his dachshund, Casey is mugged by four thugs on motorcycles and left to die on the asphalt.

He lives, though — wouldn’t be much of a movie if he didn’t — and signs up for karate classes at the local strip-mall dojo to learn self-defense. Led by the bro-y Sensei (Alessandro Nivola), the lessons gradually become more intense and invasive into Casey’s life and personality.

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.

For instance, Casey is a meek guy who enjoys adult contemporary music and the culture of France, even though he’s never been there. So Sensei, playing the opposite of the Fab Five from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” tells him to scrap those hobbies and start fresh with heavy metal and German. How clever.

The film is overly on-message, too, with nonstop dude jokes and a plotline involving a skilled brown-belt named Anna (Imogen Poots) being kept down at the dojo because of her gender.

It’s amusing, and occasionally funny, but the gags and the identical monotone in which every line is delivered grates. The effect can be along the lines of “Siri, tell me a joke.”

Eisenberg only ever gets to do one thing on-screen — talk fast and be smart — and he always entertains. But his performances could use some shaking up. Same goes for his latest film.

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