Destroyer gives us a fresh feminine take on an anti-hero crime thriller

 By Ryen Thomas

February 5, 2019

Oscar-winning actress Nicole Kidman has been having quite the cinematic resurgence lately.  She’s dazzling fanboys as the Queen Mother of the Seven Seas in the mega hit Aquaman and she stars alongside Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston in the hilariously thought-provoking venture The Upside. (Fun fact: The Upside dethroned Aquaman as the #1 King of the Box Office in America the very same weekend Aquaman joined the billion dollar club. Get that money, Nicole!)Kidman’s roles in both films are as a supporting player but in Destroyer, she takes center stage. Destroyer is a much smaller film helmed by Girl Fight’s director Karyn Kusama and, as if we even needed the reminder, proves that Kidman is still able to stretch her acting chops.

The thing is, she looks absolutely nightmarish while doing so.

Nicole Kidman as Erin Bell. Photo: Sabrina Lantos/Annapurna Pictures

Destroyer is like a modern detective noir, with western sensibilities that has Kidman playing a Clint Eastwood-esque loner detective named Erin wandering the grim underbelly of Los Angeles. The first full shot of Erin makes it clear that this film plans to work hard at destroying the polished and glamorous image often associated with Kidman. It’s like Kidman’s Monster, a film that transformed Charlize Theron into a equal mess of a character.

Destroyer throws us into the mystery by flashing back and forth between Erin’s less grim past and her present where she pushes obsessively to solve a murder. But as the film’s mystery unfolds, we witness Erin’s questionable ways. She acts like a criminal herself while at obtaining information from thugs. There’s a beautifully shot bank robbery sequence that makes it clear that Erin’s very familiar with that kind of crime. But Kidman doesn’t just cosplay as a deadbeat cop, here. She dives into this role by developing a rich inner life making it clear that, while director Kusama artistically sets a tone by turning Los Angeles into a gritty Wild West, the darker moments remain inside Erin’s head. Destroyer is less about plot and more of a character study about a mentally haunted woman.

Nicole Kidman as Erin Bell. Photo: Sabrina Lantos/Annapurna Pictures

Much of the film dwells on shots of the smoldering intensity in her eyes and allows us to wonder what drives her obsession. Is it a thirst for justice or vengeance?

Solving the film’s narrative mystery, in turn, solves the bigger mystery of how Erin became the zombie we see on screen. While her motives deserve to be questioned this kind of role, it’s up to the viewer to determine if the means are justified.  What is for certain, however, is that Destroyer gives us a fresh feminine take on an anti-hero in the conventional and standard crime thriller package.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5 

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