Film review: Destroyer

Nicole Kidman plays a badly behaved alcoholic detective in a grim new crime thriller. But the more despicable she is, the more you care about her, writes Nicholas Barber.

Karyn Kusama’s moody Los Angeles cop thriller, Destroyer, is destined to be remembered as the film in which one of Hollywood’s most famously glamorous and elegant superstars, Nicole Kidman, demonstrated just how unglamorous and inelegant she could be. Kidman plays LAPD detective Erin Bell, a name which makes her sound like a Disney character, when she is actually the exact opposite. A gaunt, alcoholic wreck who tends to sleep either in a bar or in her car, Erin has papery, liver-spotted skin; cracked lips; bags over as well as under her eyes; and a mop of greying hair that would probably digest any comb that went near it. Whenever she trudges towards her colleagues, they swear under their breath and back away, mainly because she has become such an embarrassing liability, but partly, you assume, because of the stench that clings to her black leather jacket.

For a male film star to play such a hopeless case would be brave enough; for a female film star to do so is almost unprecedented

Kidman’s lack of vanity in the role is impressive, but the film’s truly daring aspect is not how badly Erin looks but how badly she behaves. She alienates her colleagues and beats up her contacts, habits which Hollywood movies usually give to wisecracking rebels. But Erin is less of a cool anti-hero than a hot mess. She has ruined her relationship with her ex-husband (Scoot McNairy) and her teenaged daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn); her working relationship with her partner (Shamier Anderson) isn’t much better; and her barely competent police work seems to be motivated not by a thirst for justice or even revenge, but by half-crazed desperation. For a male film star to play such a hopeless case would be brave enough; for a female film star to do so is almost unprecedented. Destroyer isn’t quite as radical as Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, but both films take action-movie archetypes – the maverick cop, the soldier-turned-mercenary – and examine how deeply miserable such a person would be.

(from BBC Culture-



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Silvia Mabel Vázquez

Profesora de inglés, escritora, editora, periodista. San Martín, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Colaboradora en Reflejos de la ciudad , Columnista en programa "Detalles" de Canal 4 Teleaire S Martín y revista encontrArte Musical. [ FacebookTwitterInstagram • Las musas despiertas ]