Astounding. Perhaps one of the best action films in years. It does what great action should do. The heart pounds, you bay for blood. It is an uncomfortable experience.
You want to revel in the violence, yet are turned off by the grotesque monsters.
Like Damien Chazelle other music based script Grand Piano Whiplash doesn't really have a foot in reality. Indeed the film's foundation, core theme, is based on a lie about Charlie Parker. But it is filled with telling small details that, to this music illiterate at least, read as true and interesting. A focus on the minutiae of performance. Yet it never feels didactic or condescending.
J.K. Simmons is, of course, terrific. His music teacher just a shade removed from moustache twirling cartoon villainy but it's that shade that makes the difference. The film attempts a couple of scenes to show him as more three dimensional but it has no real interest in redeeming a totally reprehensible arse..
Indeed the climax of the film is a thrillingly complicated, ambiguous full stop on the film's debate over the cost of perfection.
It is a virtuoso display of drumming, seen as both a fuck you and a thank you to the Simmons character but Paul Reiser get a heartbreaking shot as he knows his son has lost during this moment of exhilarating triumph.