Destroyer (2018)

Director: Karyn Kusama
Writer: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford, Toby Huss
Seen on: 1.9.2021

Erin (Nicole Kidman) is a police officer, only barely holding herself together. When a body turns up with markings that connect it to an undercover case from the very beginning of Erin’s career, she re-opens the investigation, she knows that her past has finally caught up with her – and that she may finally set things right.

Destroyer very cleverly cast Nicole Kidman against type, but I often felt that it relies to hard on that cleverness, on Kidman’s sallow looks. It is a decent crime movie, but it could have been a little more.

The film poster showing a close-up of half of Erin's (Nicole Kidman) face with deep shadows under her eyes in blue and red light.

Erin is an unusual character in that we rarely see women get to be the tired cop, haunted by their past, and flaunting all rules to close a case that nobody else believes in. If Erin had been written as a man, we’d probably feel like we’ve seen the film a million times before (incuding her relationship with her ex and her daughter). But with a woman in the role, it does get a different flavor (reminding us of how gendered these types and tropes are) that is interesting, albeit slightly depressing because Erin is so much less heroic than a man would have been as that character, and she is judged much more harshly by her own colleagues (and probably the audience).

Casting Nicole Kidman in the role was an exellent move, not just because Kidman is a great actor, but also because we’re so used how beautiful she is. And in this film she is decidedly not beautiful, she looks half-dead. This is not just a reflection of just were Erin is in her life, but it seems that everybody was so amazed that Nicole Kidman can look like this, that they overfocused on it a little – meaning that there are too many shots that seem to only serve to show how very fucking tired Erin/how un-beautiful Nicole Kidman is. It makes the film feel bloated and detracts from the attention to the story (for both the filmmakers and the audience).

Erin (Nicole Kidman) and her undercover partner Chris (Sebastian Stan) standing close together, their expressions fierce.

As a result, the story feels a little half-baked, not quite finished.There are gaps that I would have liked to be closed, connections that feel very tenuous. But more importantly, I was less curious about what happened to Erin back then than about how she got to where she is now. The events of the case were obviously a starting point for major shifts in her life, but we only see the beginning and the end, and not the many things in-between, as if Erin’s destruction was so inevitable that we don’t even need to talk about it.

If the film had just foregone the crime part a bit more, I think it would have been closer to the film that I wanted to see – a look at who Erin is and how she became who she is. Everything else in the film is not bad, but it is unnecessary noise, if you ask me.

Erin (Nicole Kidman) sitting in her car, talking on the radio.

Summarizing: It’s not uninteresting, but I would have liked a bit more from it.

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