DVD Review - Destroyer

This film came out on Christmas in very limited release. It stars Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman. It was one of four films featuring her to be released last year. It wasn't the most overlooked film of hers in 2018, but it was the film from her that got the best reviews and made the least money. It was positioned to get awards recognition, but the awards shows mostly overlooked it too, except the Golden Globes, which gave Kidman a nomination for Best Performance by an Actress. If nothing else, it feels like a film that was built as a vehicle for her. It's a vehicle to showcase her acting skills. It perhaps is also a vehicle for director Karyn Kusama (The Invitation and Aeon Flux) to do a dirty and gritty, police procedural or crime drama in the vein of something like The Shield on FX. Kusama has directed a lot of television. If she had the opportunity, she certainly could have directed an episode of that FX series because this film fits into the aesthetic and themes of that show almost perfectly.

Kidman stars as Erin Bell, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. She's very rough and haggard. She's very grizzled. She seemingly spends too much time on the job and it's wasted her away. She's possibly an alcoholic, ailing or just perpetually hungover. People who work with her or around her don't seem to mind or give her a pass for some reason. Yet, they do call her accurately a drag, mainly because when she walks, she does so with a drag or kind of limp. She has a teenage daughter whom she doesn't have custody and there's probably a reason for that like some kind of substance abuse. It's obvious though that she's a very good detective, especially because she's willingly to cross the line to find out or get what she wants.

The screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi is built on flashbacks or on parallel timelines that eventually converge. One timeline seems to be taking place in the present and the other takes place 17 years in the past. The two timelines converge to explain why Erin of the present is the way she is and why she's doing what she's doing. Yet, the true insight is explaining why Erin of the past is the way she is and why she's doing what she's doing. Unfortunately, the screenplay doesn't really give us that. There is one particular scene that goes toward explaining Erin of the past, but it's not really enough.

It's all basically an excuse to watch Kidman be a bad-ass. Her role in the action film Aquaman (2018), which preceded the release of this film by a week, beat this film to the punch. Kidman doesn't really do action films. There's action in Paddington (2015) and The Golden Compass (2007), but it's not as if we've really seen her lead a fight scene or a gun shootout, as she does here. This film not only has her defending herself from violence, but, in some scenes, she's leading or instigating the violence, again to find out or get what she wants. In that, this is a different side to Kidman as an actress. That alone makes this film one to watch because it's rare for a woman her age and frame to be given action-scenes or an action-fueled movie like this one. Male actors over 50 like Liam Neeson or Nicolas Cage are doing it, but it's not the case for women for the most part.

Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya and Captain America: The Winter Soldier) co-stars as Chris, a fellow police detective who goes undercover to infiltrate a group of criminals who will eventually commit armed robbery of a bank. We don't get much about him except he's dedicated to his job and he doesn't joke around. Part of the problem with explaining Erin of the past is there's no explanation for Chris beyond him doing his job. He exists merely as a plot device. He's there mainly to fall in love with Erin and somehow be lost, but there isn't anything we're given that explains why he falls in love with her or what his life was like prior that would make him do so.

It becomes rather hollow in that regard. With no explanation for Erin or explanation for Chris, it makes their relationship rather hollow. The aesthetics are gritty, sun-soaked and sweaty. There's good action where Kidman is in the center of it. There's an exciting freneticism and energy to it, but there's a kind of hollowness to it where the aesthetics are superficially the only important thing. The film does try to fill in the hollowness somewhat.

Jade Pettyjohn (School of Rock) plays Shelby, the teenage daughter of Erin. She's estranged from her mom at the beginning of the film. The two have a pretty combative and combustible relationship throughout the film. It's fueled due to Shelby's connection to a sexy older guy named Jay, played by Beau Knapp (Seven Seconds). It comes to a climax toward the end where Erin has to reveal to Shelby what kind of a person she is and the things she's done. It's a mother-daughter relationship that's explored well enough, but more could have been done.

Rated R for language, violence, sexual content and brief drug use.
Running Time: 2 hrs.

Available on DVD.


Popular Posts