Wednesday 26 June 2019

Destroyer review: 'A career-best performance from a committed and frighteningly convincing Kidman'


Chris Wasser

We’re in downtown Los Angeles, and Detective Erin Bell (an unrecognisable Nicole Kidman) is in an awful state. Bell — a broken and bruised officer, who’s seen better days — has just arrived at a murder scene, casually informing her colleagues that she may know the victim.

Back at the office, a mysterious package only adds to her suspicions, and Bell is convinced that the murder has something to do with a chap named Silas (Toby Kebbell), a ruthless California criminal whose gang she and her former partner, Chris (Sebastian Stan), once infiltrated.

We don’t know much, but what we do know is that something went terribly wrong on that undercover mission, and Bell makes it her priority to track down the surviving gang members, in order to find Silas. The only problem is, her cover was blown, and they know she’s a detective. And, Bell is no longer playing by the rules.

Working with a tense, complex script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, director Karyn Kusama presents a grim and atmospheric crime drama that, though very well performed, is its own worst enemy.

There’s a lot going on in here, and Destroyer makes a habit of jumping back in time to show us what happened when Bell and Chris were undercover officers in Silas’s gang. We also have a tricky subplot concerning Bell’s teenage daughter.

Yep, we’re in True Detective mode and, were Kusama and her team to tell the story in a straight line, it might have made for a better film. Alas, that would have ruined the big surprise in the third act (the ending will stay with you for days).

It’s a bit of a scrappy mystery, then. Still, it all hangs on a career-best performance from a committed and frighteningly convincing Kidman. That woman is in the form of her life at the minute. Seek it out.

(Cert 16, 121mins)

Destroyer review: 'Kidman staggers through this woozy film with a stubborn sense of purpose'



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