The washed-up cop who’s still recounting their past sins is a trope worn through to the copper of a badge. Here, in director Karyn Kusama‘s Destroyer those cliches do rise to the surface, in a film that’s languid in pace, yet saved by its pristine acting and exceptional score.
The film centers around Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman), a perpetually drunk cop whose life is one long hangover. She comes upon a murder scene of a male with a gun and dyed-pack-stained money scattered around him. Bell spends much of the film looking for the perpetrator, a psychopathic killer named Silas (Toby Kebbell). The film soon becomes a dark hard-boiled cop turned vigilante plot, as Bell hunts down the man she once tried to take down while undercover.
The acting here is stunning, often rising above Destroyer‘s self-indulgent editing. Kebbell as Silas is a spitting image of Top Dollar from The Crow. Bradley Whitford needs to have a 5-minute segment in every film from here on out, while Sebastian Stan as Erin’s undercover partner, Chris, gives what will be considered an underrated performance behind Kidman’s unvarnished exploits.
And it’s Kidman, going for broke in a role that’s made for it, which is the steady hand. Her lack of make-up, her hoarse voice, and her barely capable of standing posture creates one of the most remarkable characters of her career. And in the final act, like a boxer with Bambi legs struggling to hang on to the ropes, backed by Theodore Shapiro’s brooding score, both Kidman and Kusama go for it all. Destroyer‘s ending will be taught in film classes for the next few years, even if the rest of the film isn’t.