For in her I saw the destroyer.
Destroyer (2018): 7 out of 10 Destroyer is an interesting beast. Part Oscar Bait for Nicole Kidman (they didn’t bite, though she did manage a Golden Globe nomination), part artistic tour de force by Girlfight (2000) and Æon Flux (2005) director Karyn Kusama and actual part movie about things that happen. Director Kusuma seems to be going for the gritty, tough girl realism of Close (2019) as well as the avant-garde dreaminess of (2017)’s Gemini but without the latter’s visual flair.
The basic plot is that Nicole Kidman plays a very burnt out LA Detective who is searching for a man who killed her partner many years ago. She has a self-destructive focus, and the rest of her life comes tumbling down. Yes, you have seen this movie before.
The Good: Oscar bait or not Nicole Kidman is fantastic in this film. She makes it work both through her acting and physical presence. Her performance is on the level of Charlize Theron’s in Monster.
The rest of the cast is also quite good with a shoutout to Bradley Whitford’s slimy lawyer. I have grown to appreciate Mr. Whitford in movies as the years have gone by and he hits it out of the park here as what turns out to be an audience surrogate trying to talk sense into both the protagonist and the plot.
Praise as well to whoever did Nicole Kidman‘s make-up; it is flawless for the role. Dramatic aging or addict makeup is so easy to get very wrong as anyone who has seen Amy Smart as a crack addict in the Butterfly Effect will attest. It isn’t just Kidman’s either as co-star Tatiana Maslany undergoes a similar transformation that is just as impressive.
Also, the actual story is quite good. It has a lovely twist with about ten minutes to go that makes the entire film even better in retrospect. This movie was very close to being great.
The Bad: In Peter Benchley’s summertime classic novel Jaws there is a surprisingly large number of pages devoted to the affair between Chief Brody’s wife and Matt Hooper. Spielberg wisely excised this nonsense from a movie about a shark eating people.
If only Spielberg had taken a similar once over to the Destroyer script.
Destroyer is a movie about an undercover job gone wrong through a series of terrible decisions by Nicole Kidman and her partner. And it is also about Nicole Kidman’s attempt at closure through single-minded revenge.
Destroyer has plenty of plot for a ninety-minute film, but for some reason, there is a substantial subplot involving Nicole Kidman’s daughter (played by Jade Pettyjohn who is fine mind you) that eats up too much of the film and honestly distracts both the character and the audience from the story proper.
The film grinds to a halt when the daughter’s storyline pops in. If the film had spent this time in flashback with Nicole bonding with her partner or the gang more, it certainly would have been a more interesting watch and would have gone a long way to explain a seventeen-year-old grudge. As it is the film’s tepid description of both the gang and Nicole’s feelings towards her partner makes Bradley Whitford’s advice early in the film “You know what successful people do, Detective Bell? They get over sh#t. They move on, and they build things.” ring more accurate than perhaps the filmmaker intended.
Where was I? Oh yeah, the daughter. So instead we get a bratty sixteen-year-old with an age-inappropriate punchable boyfriend and various dramas that have zero payoffs concerning the rest of the film and are not entertaining on their own.
The Ugly: There is a unique twist at the end of this film. Had it ended there I probably would have given it an 8 out of 10. Here it was the coup de gras, and all the cinematic sins fade away. Here is a tough girl making things right through street smarts and tenacity. Fin.
And then the film decides to beat that same drum for another ten minutes while what I am assuming is the Kronos Quartet screeches more and more high-pitched violin noises in an ever-rising key. Honestly, I am surprised we didn’t get a shot of a plastic bag floating in the wind.
These last ten minutes of nothingness broke me. Destroyer is overlong, and it has a very languid pace. A lot less would be more. Over the entire film, we have about half an hour of artistic shots that seem to pile one upon another like some Indie film parody reel.
Not In Conclusion
Not In Conclusion: Hey is it me or is the bank they rob the same one that you rob during The Paleto Score in Grand Theft Auto V? I had to mention this but where to put such brilliant insights within a review?
In Conclusion: For those looking for excitement or adventure, this might not be your bag. It is too earnest by half, the protagonist’s motivation doesn’t hold water, and everything is depressing. It is worth watching or Nicole Kidman’s performance, however. I wouldn’t see it again, but I am glad I saw it once.