Destroyer

Director: Karyn Kusama

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany

Release Date: December 25, 2018

Nicole Kidman has been working a lot this year: She played the mother of a homosexual 18-year-old in Boy Erased, the Queen of Atlantis in Aquaman and the assistant of a paralyzed millionaire in The Upside. In Destroyer she is the lead actor, a lone wolf detective who is deeply haunted by her past when she went undercover to infiltrate a Los Angeles gang.

The movie opens with Erin (Kidman) asleep in her car when she is awoken to a homicide call on the radio. Clearly exhausted when she arrives to the scene, her colleagues suggest she go get some sleep. Erin notices three bold dots tattooed on the back of the victim’s neck and finds money stained with purple ink. With that evidence, she determines that the leader of the gang she infiltrated 17 years earlier is back again.

The story switches between the present day Erin, who is working alone to hunt down the gang leader, and back when she was a young detective working from the inside.  We see two very different people. This gives us the backstory of why she is so motivated while at the same time showing the audience what lengths she’ll go through for any lead that will get her closer to this ruthless killer. The story reveals piece by piece why she is so personally invested in bringing him to justice.

Kidman with a gun

The scenes in the 1990s are perfect for the type of crew she’s in with. They sit around strung out on heroin while listening to Godsmack’s hit song Voodoo. As they most likely have other ways to earn money, their brilliant plan to get rich is to rob a bank. It’s not the most original idea but for a bunch of Nu-metal heroin addicts, it makes sense.

The movie takes place in LA, highlighting some of the more grimy parts of the city, and, being a cops-and-robbers narrative, you can’t help but get a Training Day vibe from Destroyer. We follow a cop who has done — and is still doing — some unethical or illegal things while doing her job much like Denzel Washington’s character. While she isn’t forcing fellow officers to smoke PCP, she is assaulting lawyers in their homes, stalking potential suspects and kidnapping members of the crew — things I hope aren’t in the police officers’ new-hire handbook.

The makeup department did a great job at making Kidman look like an exhausted middle-aged cop who’s had a drinking problem for that past 15 years. She has aging spots on her skin, her lips are dried out and it appears that she’s been wearing the same makeup for days as she sleeps in her car most nights. She looks like she smells horrible and that the years have not been kind to her. Erin needs a bath and a nap. They really nailed the midlife-crisis workaholic look.

It’s interesting Kidman was nominated for a Golden Globe for this performance. Sure, the Globes aren’t nearly as relevant as the Oscars, but it’s something I found strange because I found her performance in Boy Erased absolutely incredible, which she was not recognized for. While I don’t think this performance is career-defining, it’s still solid. She completely transforms for the aged, present day version of Erin. But as the younger Erin I’m not as sold.

Given the nature of the film being a cops-and-robbers revenge story set in LA, starring one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, I’m not sure why this didn’t get a wider release. Given a bigger marketing budget, this is the type of movie that had the potential to make some real money at the box office.

As of Jan. 17 multiple sites such as Box Office Mojo have reported it had made only $457,832. Destroyer is interesting enough anyone’s time. Kidman is great, the story has its turns, but ultimately, it isn’t a movie we’ll be talking about next year.

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