‘Destroyer’ Review: Kidman Is Savage In This Brutal Tale Of Revenge And Regret

Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) is a detective in the LAPD who mercilessly tracks down the members of the bank robbing gang she formerly infiltrated. Desperate to atone for past sins and to save the soul of her wayward daughter, Bell must decide how far she is willing to go and what she is willing to lose in her quest for revenge.

Bell’s immediate willingness to use her authority and power as a police detective to pursue her personal vendetta is representative of the hard edge the film has. The trail to find her old crew is littered with vicious encounters and physical pain. Bell is a revenant returned from years of waste, robbed of meaning by her profound guilt.

Nicole Kidman provides a powerful but rich performance. Her haggard appearance compliments a deep weariness that Kidman adopts to perform the toxic heroine. It’s a film about regret and obsession. The falling action has occurred long before we meet Bell and is revealed to us through flashback throughout. Consequently, Bell already has nothing left to lose and spins haphazardly from one ill-planned confrontation to the next, dredging up the past wherever she goes.

Kidman is supported by an excellent cast. Toby Kebbel is eerie as the magnanimous and faintly deified leader of the gang and main target of Bell’s ire. Other haunted faces from Bells past include Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany, and Bradley Whitford. The film takes place over two-time frames and most of the characters wear their age disgracefully. Cloudy eyes and withered bodies puncture all the youthful shortsightedness of the characters younger counterparts. A scheme to steal money is made to seem absurd against the heavy burden of the years.

The direction of Karyn Kasama is often stark but also beautiful. Occasionally her camera and editing recalls Lynne Ramsay’s bravura work in You Were Never Really Here albeit without that film’s masterful and fearless innovation. She captures the character’s in harsh close-ups, or lost amidst the endless space of Los Angeles. A flat country haunted by these characters.

Destroyer is a brutal tale of revenge and regret. It’s viscerally thrilling but also poignant. It’s also one of Kidman’s boldest and finest performances.

Four Stars

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