Film Review – Destroyer (2018)

Title – Destroyer (2018)

Director – Karyn Kusama (The Invitation)

Cast – Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford

Plot – Mentally unstable and physically unwell LAPD detective Erin Bell (Kidman) sets out to find the location of Silas (Kebbell), a notorious criminal she had dealings with when in an undercover operation with her partner Chris (Stan).   

“Don’t make excuses for what you want. It’s weak”

Review by Eddie on 01/07/2019

For all the flaws and missed opportunities that arise within Karyn Kusama’s newest film Destroyer, a darkly observed and different take on the gritty crime genre with a female centric twist, one thing remains a constant throughout, an undeniable and powerful force: its lead performer Nicole Kidman.

Not afraid to transform psychically for her roles as evidenced previously across a multi-decade spanning career, Kidman’s Golden Globe nominated (an Oscar worthy) turn as the emotionally tortured and outwardly unraveling detective Erin Bell is amongst the best work the esteemed actress has ever completed and a large reason why Destroyer should be sought out, even if it’s sometimes frustrating story and mismanaged plot threads ensure Kusama’s film never reaches grand heights.

Kusuma who made her name with the female orientated Æon Flux and Jennifer’s Body ensures that Destroyer is a gritty affair throughout, from the moment we meet Bell stumbling into a murder scene, looking disheveled, unwell and genuinely not up standard, the slow sprinkling of info as we learn what drove her to become the shell of a human she is today, and a detective hell bent on uncovering the whereabouts of local Los Angeles crime figure Silas, of whom she was at one time affiliated with on an undercover operation.

It’s a journey to the dark underbelly of the criminal world, led by a sometimes detestable anti-hero of sorts that we’ve seen countless times before and Kursama does struggle to do much with the character development and plot strands around Bell from Toby Kebbell’s distracting hair, Sebastian Stan’s thinly drawn partner to Bell Chris and the shouldn’t of even bothered Scoot McNairy and Tatiana Maslany but despite the coldness of much of proceedings, thanks to Kidman, Destroyer’s end coda and more emotionally driven moments are of the highest order, thanks entirely to Kusama’s direction and Kidman’s full bodied turn in these instances.

It’s the type of performance that would’ve been headline making had Destroyer managed to connect to a more tangible level between critics and audiences, as Bell’s journey of redemption seeking vengeance and closure on a horrifying past occurrence is utterly commanding when Kidman is given time in the spotlight and when combined with Kusama’s keen directional eye and Theodore Shapiro’s expertly designed musical accompaniment, Destroyer feels like a much better film overall, one that’s fresh take on an age old sub-genre would’ve been quite the memorable event had all the stars aligned.

As it stands however, Destroyer is more a competent picture than a ground-breaking one, filled with scenes and a lead turn that appear to be from a more outstanding film, you can’t help but walk away from this experience and wish for something more, even if it’s never less than engaging thanks to Kidman’s captivating turn.

Final Say –

Lacking the story nuance and emotional connection in too many areas, Destroyer may not be the film it had the potential to be but thanks to Kidman and some genuinely brilliant scenes, Kusama’s film remains a film worthy of tracking down.

3 interrupted batting practices out of 5

4 responses to “Film Review – Destroyer (2018)

  1. This pretty much perfectly corresponds with my thoughts! I admired the film’s willingness to not pull punches in terms of presenting despair and degradation, but the thin characterisation and lack of thrills meant I was left with some thoughts but little emotional response. Something like Whiplash much more effectively balances a psychological study with genuinely gripping filmmaking

    • A great example of a where this film could’ve gone mate. I was a little disappointed in how it never fully gelled together but Kidman’s turn was quite something.
      E

  2. Always nice to see the composer get a mention in a film review. Theodore Shapiro is definitely a rising star!

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