Dark, brutal and just slightly disturbing – Destroyer is definitely not your lazy Sunday afternoon film of choice. Almost dystopian in its depiction of Los Angeles and the police force that governs it, Destroyer is a film that requires a hard heart and a strong emotional disposition at times, but with Nicole Kidman’s stirring performance it’s a film worth sticking with.
Notable for its dingy portrayal of Los Angeles and its seedy inhabitants, Destroyer is a film that paints nobody in an affectionate light. The world is a dim place at times and even the city of angels, with the glitz of Hollywood on one side and the sordid underbelly on the other it is a place where being untrustworthy is almost a given. Siphoning the likes of Heat, To Live and Die in LA, Rampart and the pulpier L.A. Confidential – Destroyer further argues the case that this is what the city is really like and questions the divide between the rich and the poor or more simply the good and the bad.
It’s easy to say Nicole Kidman has never played this type of role before – a depressed, alcoholic police detective whose remorse runs deep is not something that immediately sticks out on her CV. Being an actress of enviable talent though, it is likewise no surprise to see Kidman step so easily into such a role. While not quite going to the lengths of Charlize Theron in Monster, Kidman nonetheless undergoes an unpolished transformation as she takes on the role Erin Bell. Her detective parades around Los Angeles in an almost zombified state as she aims to track down Toby Kebbell’s gang leader who has resurfaced years after an undercover operation went south for Bell and her partner.
Stacked with worthy talent – Destroyer has the benefit of supporting actors like Sebastian Stan, Bradley Whitford, Toby Huss and Tatiana Maslany who, despite little screen-time, make valuable accounts for themselves. Likewise, director Karyn Kusama brings a distinguished poise to the film, never letting it slip into surreal territory and grounds the film in a raw authenticity. One stand-out scene in a bank heist may even rival Heat’s classic street shoot-out.
Despite all the previously mentioned good work, and not forgetting the striking cinematography of Julie Kirkwood – Destroyer can be a deeply unpleasant watch and one that feels more like slices have been taken from other similar films, paying reverence to them instead of standing on its own. Destroyer’s narrative seems unbalanced and some actions and justifications seem hurried. However, Destroyer rides on Kidman’s shoulders, with her performance demanding you watch even in its darkest moments.
Destroyer is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.