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Stars: Miles Teller, J K Simmons, Melissa Benoist, Paul Reiser

Director: Damien Chazelle

Budding drummer Andrew (Teller) wins a place at a prestigious New York conservatory of music, hoping to join the award-winning jazz and swing band there. Invited to come along to rehearsals as an 'alternate', Andrew soon incurs the wrath of principal conductor Lawrence Fletcher (Simmons), a hectoring, voraciously foul-mouthed bully, who tests our eardrums while driving his suffering students right to, and then beyond their limits in his quest for musical perfection.

First Andrew's into the ensemble, then he's out, then he's back in again, as Fletcher tests three drummers to their nail-bleeding extremes; why he's so obsessed with percussion isn't clear, as no other members of the band have to endure anything nearly as bad, and Fletcher himself proves to be a pianist.

Still, Andrew throws up his relationship with Nicole (Benoist) to concentrate 100 per cent on drumming.

Selected to play in a major competition, his coach breaks down (it's not clear why all the band aren't on the same coach) and his hired car is in a collision with a pantechnicon. Bloodied, Andrew staggers towards the stage...

That's by no means the climax of a story in which director Chazelle homes on the two intense, full-on, sweat-busting performances of his leading actors, as Teller looks at any moment likely to burst a blood vessel. We could be seeing the emergence of a star here, while character king Simmons, who has never had such a demanding central role, pulls it off in fine style. For him, at least, Oscar glory beckons.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Sony (Sony Pictures Classics). Technicolor.
104 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 12 Jan 2015