Destroyer - Review

Nicole Kidman shines in a so-so action thriller.


Destroyer has plenty of issues. Thankfully, it stars one of the most magnetic actresses of the 21st century, and is directed by a bold, if not necessarily bombastic, voice in Karyn Kusama. It tries and fails to do what David Fincher does for bland crime procedurals, but the result is still something to be admired.

Destroyer is at its best when it lets Kidman off the leash. As a worn and aging cop, she is tense and constantly on edge. Knowing that every scene could end in a fistfight adds some much needed energy to the film’s sidetracked plot. For years, Kidman’s roles have been synonymous with her beauty, but films like Destroyer highlight her ferocity. The same quiet fury she delivered in films like Eyes Wide Shut or The Killing of a Sacred Deer emerge in Destroyer, with costuming to match. The makeup department deserve a raise for the work they did on Kidman’s eyes alone.

When the script allows, these elements combine into a potent and entertaining mix, possibly ushering a season of action-centered roles for the Australian actress, but these moments are generally rare. More likely, you will be given a scene with Kidman as a young, undercover cop, stripped of her lavish makeup and made to look like herself in 1990. Time must be given to flesh out the supporting cast, but at the cost of relegating Kidman, an alarm bell should have gone off somewhere on set. When she isn’t chewing up a scene and spitting it out, the rogues gallery of ridiculous thugs and Batman-esque henchmen muff up the screen with insufferable performances that would fit perfectly in a Den of Thieves sequel. The miscast Toby Kebbell fares the worst, with a wig as forced and ludicrous as Kidman’s is convincing. The wig aside, he is neither menacing nor endearing, and could have been removed from the film entirely were it not for his final scene. Not ideal for the main antagonist and source of Erin’s (Kidman) motivation.

Destroyer could have been so good. Like an alligator in a barren swamp, its deadliest asset has very little to sink its teeth into. The few bright spots include inventive direction from Karyn Kusama, utilizing extreme close ups and dollies to thrust viewers into Erin’s path of destruction. Music from Theodore Shapiro borrows the electronic swells of Jonny Greenwood’s You Were Never Really Here score, and is nearly as effective. Destroyer is gripping for a moment, then shattered by a visit to a club to look for Erin’s daughter, or to throw off a useless police partner. Destroyer sets high stakes for its lead character, and spends the rest of the film trying to slow her down.