I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been the biggest Nicole Kidman fan. But there’s no denying she is one of the most fascinating actors at the moment. She’s jumped from one great performance to the next and now with Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, she might have her greatest ever role. Kusama’s film lives and dies based on Kidman, who is on screen almost every single second of the two-hour run time.
“Don’t make excuses for what you want. It’s weak.”
Kidman plays Erin Bell, a detective in Los Angeles, who suddenly finds her life, or what’s left of it, thrust into her past when she comes across the dead body of someone she used to know very well. Bell is an alcoholic. She is a tornado of anger and despair. She sucks the good out of everyone around her. Even her own daughter wants nothing to do with her and even dates older men (she’s only 15) to try and agitate her on purpose.
Kusama’s film goes back and forth between Bell’s investigation into the dead body and her past of how she got involved with said person. In the flashbacks, we see that Bell was a young deputy asked to infiltrate a gang of bank robbers with an undercover FBI agent (Sebastian Stan). The editing of these two storylines works really well, keeping up the suspense throughout. There was never a moment where I wasn’t on edge. Because Kusama’s film is always on edge. Just like Kidman’s character.
I do have some issues with Destroyer. For starters, I wanted more of the film’s antagonist. The film hints at how evil this guy is, and he seems to be a very small part of the film. I wanted more. There are also some issues with the logic that the film seems to gleefully ignore. Bell does something that completely ignores the rules of the law and no one ever seems to really care. And I have to mention the ending. I won’t say anything as to not ruin the revelation, but I felt a little cheated. Just a little.
“You didn’t get away.”
Having aired my grievances, I have to say Destroyer is an incredibly powerful character study of a woman who seems to be at the end of a very long rope. One that is firmly tightened around her neck. The only thing tighter is Kusama’s grip on the audience. Her film is muscular. Destroyer flexes some serious brawn, especially a sequence involving a bank robbery with Bell being the only available officer in proximity.
Kusama’s filmography is beguiling. She debuted with Girl Fight (unseen by me). Then she did the underappreciated Jennifer’s Body, a bonkers Horror-Comedy that might bite off more than it can chew. She made 2015’s The Invitation, a slow burn Horror movie that is one of the best the genre gave us this decade. And now we arrive at Destroyer. A movie that Walter Hill or Sam Peckinpah would’ve made 40 years ago with Charles Bronson or James Caan. But instead, we have Nicole Kidman. Who annihilates everything in her way. And sets the screen on fire. Destroyer is something else.
Overall Score 4/5