I didn’t see this in the theatre because it’s premise looked one-dimensional – a brutal mentor figure tortures a nascent talent into fruition. Around the time it came out, it was being described as a kind of sporting movie, with the implicit story structure of tough love paying off. Comparisons to the first half of Kubrik’s Full Metal Jacket were also on the obvious agenda for engaging with this film. For me, this film played out depressingly as I’d feared, as basically an excuse in sadism passing for drama. JK Simmons breaks down Miles Teller bit by bit, until eventually the critical moment comes and he gets entirely broken, so that after three quarters of the film’s running time we can finally get to something deeper than the cinema of pain, as the two leads continue to circle each other looking for meaning.
I gave this a 6/10 on the IMDB, because in the end, this is just a bit of disposable masochism theatre.