Nicole Kidman will receive plaudits for her transformation into a grizzled LA cop, but the real star of Destroyer is director Karyn Kusama's muscular, pulsating direction
The title of Destroyer is never explicitly explained, but it fits the path of vengeance and free-floating emotional and physical violence that permeates the weary Los Angeles noir. Nicole Kidman stars as Erin Bell, a washed-up alcoholic detective, bending over double with stomach bleeds, occasionally spatting with her estranged daughter, as she hunts down the mysterious ‘Silas’, an armed robber with whom she had a life-destroying encounter in years past.
Kidman will be the subject of much press for this role, as beautiful actors who dress down for gritty roles usually are. She’s caked in makeup, looking like some kind of cross between Charlize Theron in Monster, Linda Blair in The Exorcist and Meg Ryan in In the Cut. And she stumbles across the screen snarling with rage – there’s an aggression to this performance unseen in her previous work.
While Kidman’s scenery-chewing is effective, the real star of Destroyer is the director, Karyn Kusama. As in her previous career highlights, such as the boxing drama Girlfight (which introduced Michelle Rodriguez to the screen), and the L.A. religious sect horror The Invitation, there’s a muscularity to Kusama’s compositions, a quietly angry agitation to the drama and a faith in genre in the approach, that makes the movie pulsate. Like its main character, Destroyer has a slight tendency to get in its own way – there are a few too many flashbacks and other tricks in structure, posing as revelatory but not quite landing – but Kusama’s sense of mood is breathtakingly direct, taking us into a world of scorpions in a barrel.
Destroyer had its UK premiere at London Film Festival, and is released 25 Jan by Lionsgate
For more London Film Festival coverage, click here