Destroyer review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
There are at least a dozen moments within Destroyer where it’s astounding to just watch Nicole Kidman inhabit the role of an aged, damaged, and drifting detective. Her first scene features her staggering out of a car and stumbling her way into a crime scene. Miles are on her face and there’s a lethargic gaze in her face where every step feels like a chore. She’s a weary cop who thankfully turns in an amazing performance within a rather standard crime thriller.
Kidman plays LAPD detective Erin Bell, currently trying to track down a gang specializing in heists and murder. Her past is coming back to haunt her as she recalls a time when she more lucid, working undercover within a gang. As she tries to bust this latest batch of criminals committed to a heist, she’s reminded of how much her previous case damaged. Not just physically, made apparent by her much different face after being involved with a crime gone awry, but mentally when she realizes how easy it would be for someone younger to go down the same route that led to her darker life.
The case proceeds down the familiar route of one badass cop trying to defy the odds and rules to crack a case, albeit with an interesting edge of having Kidman in a role usually reserved for men. It’s rare to see an aged and grizzled female cop going out of her way to track down criminals. Perhaps one of the best moments features her visiting a power player played by Bradley Whitford to get some info out of him. When he refuses and she’s escorted out of his mansion, she proceeds to beat up his bodyguard and hold him at gunpoint in front of his kid.
Another great moment of grit features Kidman foiling a heist operation with two other cops, busting into the scene of a bank at gunpoint. Gunfire breaks out and its treated a real sense of urgency and intensity, more thrilling for the lack of any dialogue with the exception of orders. Most satisfying about this sequence is how it carries out into the streets with Kidman getting into a knock-down fight to save one criminal from ruining her life. These moments make the more degrading scenes, as when Kidman has to masturbate a former criminal for info, easier to digest.
The film goes about its story Erin Bell nonlinearly, cutting between her con days and tough cop days. This breaking up of the story helps to make the story more engaging to decipher considering there isn’t a whole lot present here that hasn’t delivered before in hardboiled tales of tough-as-nails cops. Erin’s early days are seen through a haze of layabouts who waste away their days talking about the corrupt government, playing video games and drinking beer. We don’t linger too long on these scenes and I’m all the more thankful considering how easily they can slip into 1960s slang revolution babble. The last thing I want to do with a film like this is question the era based on the street talk.
Destroyer is a film that is so flimsy with its writing that Kidman all but owns this film. She’s the best thing in it, she’s the most entertaining aspect, and she’s the only reason to ever see a film that borrows so liberally from a lot of tough cop movies.