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The Action Comedy Hidden Gem You Can Stream On Hulu

The darkly comedic martial arts flick "The Art of Self-Defense" tells a story that will feel familiar to anyone who has ever watched a feel-good inspirational sports movie. Hapless and timid Casey (Jesse Eisenberg, who appeared in "Zack Snyder's Justice League") is searching for a sense of empowerment following a brutal attack at the hands of a motorcycle gang. This leads him to the doors of a dojo run by a charismatic sensei (Alessandro Nivola) who promises to mold his pupils in his own masculine image. At first, the martial arts lessons give Casey the self-confidence he was looking for to turn his cowardice into courage.

However, the deeper he gets into the tightly controlled culture of the dojo, the more Casey begins to realize that his sensei's teachings have sinister motivations at their core. He's forced to reckon with how far he's willing to go on his quest to toughen himself up and contend with the dark path he has allowed himself to be drawn down.

This indie gem had a quiet release, but especially now that it's streaming on Hulu, it's a must-see for fans of shows like "Cobra Kai" or anyone who loves a movie that turns the conventions of the genre it's working in on their head. According to the critical consensus, the film succeeds at delivering an unexpected punch to the throat.

According to critics, The Art of Self-Defense succeeds at subverting expectations

While "The Art of Self-Defense" often feels like your typical sports movie, it upends the tropes of the genre in fascinating ways. That is by the design of writer-director Riley Stearns. He told Slash Film that he imagined the movie "as a f—ed up afterschool special ... I wanted a movie that started off in that vein, then as it went along, essentially halfway through the film I wanted the rug to be pulled out from under you ..."

For the most part, critics picked up what Stearns was laying down, as evidenced by the film's 84% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. On The Blue Lenses, Alexandra Heller-Nicholas wrote of the film, "'The Art of Self-Defense' is a razor-sharp parable about radicalization, masculinity and misogyny that avoids pompous, self-aggrandizing soapboxing in favour of empathy, humanity and compassion." Heller-Nicholas also called it "a scathing expose of the ethical responsibilities of individuals who get sucked into radical misogynist networks," and concluded, "The question 'The Art of Self-Defense' asks is as simple as it is timely: how far are you willing to let your fear push you into becoming the thing you despise?"

Nick Schager of The Daily Beast was also complimentary of the movie's ability to capture the spirit of a martial arts or sports film, while still delivering its subversive commentary. He wrote, "the sharp script performs an admirable tightrope walk between Will Ferrell/Danny McBride-style goofiness ... and take-no-prisoners social commentary delivered via instances of bracing ugliness."

If you're curious to see what the hype is all about you can check out "The Art of Self-Defense," which is currently streaming on Hulu.