Destroyer Blu-ray Review

I’m always a little sceptical when conventionally attractive Hollywood superstars don a load of unflattering makeup and expect to be critically lauded for it.

Maybe the fault is with us as audience? Maybe we’re the superficial ones? Maybe we are unable to take these movie icons seriously unless they take the sheen off themselves?

Who knows.

But whatever the reason, Nicole Kidman appears in a pretty unrecognisable and dishevelled-looking state in gritty new detective thriller Destroyer.

Kidman plays Erin Bell, a long-serving LAPD cop who has fallen on hard times. We learn that her hard times are largely attributable to an assignment which went wrong about fifteen years earlier.

As part of the operation, Bell and her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan) went undercover to infiltrate a gang of bank robbers. The gang is led by the relatively unhinged Silas (Toby Kebbell).

In the present-day, Bell arrives at the scene of a homicide which brings back memories of the aforementioned case and convinces her that Silas is active again and is in some way involved in the murder.

The intervening years and aftermath of the undercover operation are filled in by flashbacks.

Amongst other things, we learn that Erin had since given birth to a now-teenage daughter, Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn). Their relationship is quite fractious, and we see Erin juggle her parental duties with the murder investigation, the latter of which is conducted in a fairly confrontational and unorthodox way. So is the former, come to think of it.

In pursuing Silas through the ex-gang members, Bell interrogates, threatens and sometimes bludgeons her way through LA’s seedy underbelly to get to the truth.

The film has already garnered some praise and attention for both Karyn Kusama’s direction and Kidman’s raw performance, neither of which I would dispute.

Kidman is supported by strong performances from Scoot McNairy, Kebbell and Pettyjohn, who manages to walk the fine line between rebelliousness and vulnerability. Bradley Whitford has a scene-stealing turn as a sleazy lawyer.

The film’s dark tone is nicely accentuated by Theodore Shapiro’s sinister, surging score, conjuring a nightmarish LA where the bleakness is only punctuated by danger.

The danger, incidentally, is well crafted; a tense bank robbery scene midway through the film is particularly gripping.

It’s a well-made, well-played movie, but perhaps I had believed the hype about it being so challenging and expected more. Strip away the time-jumping narrative and an unnecessary plot twist and it plays as a relatively straightforward redemption tale; a tale worth watching but not as especially standout as you may have expected.

Conor Brennan

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May 2019