Fantastic Fest Review: Destroyer

Nicole Kidman never lands a body blow in this hard-hitting noir

Karyn Kusama is a woman who does not make the same movie twice. From the powerful boxing drama Girlfight to her titillating teen femme cult horror movie Jennifer’s Body, her latest film Destroyer proves that she’s willing to try anything, but that women will always be at the forefront.

That doesn’t mean every attempt will stick. In Destroyer Kusama directs a script, by husband Phil Hay and his writing partner Matt Manfredi, about an FBI agent who has fallen from grace after a particularly rough undercover job has ruined her. It checks all the hard-boiled boxes, and even with a female as the protagonist it still feels fairly stale. The reoccurring themes of lost lovers and estranged children feel discounted, as well.

Nicole Kidman’s performance as Erin Bell is something else. She dives into the role, giving it her all, but her all almost seems forced. As she stumbles through scene to scene, playing the drunk, destructive detective as well as she can, but there’s no ease. She’s working the camera and milking her liver spotted makeup for all its worth, trying to find the ugly that can sometimes shine through with these iconic and overwritten characters, but Kidman never finds the dark, haunting magic.

If there’s one good thing to come out of Destroyer, it’s Tatiana Maslany. Playing Petra, a broken rich girl archetype who falls in love with the king of the bad boys, she snarls and cackles with a tinge of insanity that elicits pity. She sleuths around the film with much more ease than Kidman, clicking with its gritty, pulpy nature.

Not everything can be a hit, and while it’s disappointing the Kusama didn’t reach her full potential with Destroyer, there are still glistening moments speckled throughout that are a reminder of her raw talent.


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