Febiofest 2019: Destroyer review

By Ryan Keating-Lambert


Nicole Kidman is almost unrecognisable in this gender flip on the cold hard detective thriller. Despite it being her most memorable performance in recent years though, Destroyer is weighed down by, what feels like, a lack of tension, urgency, and quite honestly, a lack of, well, destroying.

Directed by Karyn Kusama (The Invitation), Beat-up detective and bad cop Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) barely scrapes through day-to-day life after her and fellow cop, and lover, Chris (Sebastian Stan) decide to take part in a bank robbery that goes awry.

Kidman is great as the cop with a chip on her shoulder here, and her make-up is pretty convincing too – imagine a Clint Eastwood that was actually likable. It’s refreshing to see her in such a role. She limps from crime scene to crime scene, attempting to locate gang leader and psychopath Silas, well played by Toby Kebbell, while also trying to sort out her teenage daughter who’s fast going down the same road of misdemeanor and alcoholism.

It seems like a straight forward ‘bad cop seeks redemption’ film, and in many ways it is, but Kusama plays around with flashbacks to try to keep things interesting. It doesn’t always work though. Rather than revealing surprises and cranking up the tension, the flashbacks do little more than frustrate, especially towards the finale when you’ve had enough of moody Kidman and just fancy an ending that packs a punch. Despite best efforts though, Destroyer delivers more of a petty slap.

Related: If Beale Street Could Talk, Vox Lux and more American indie at Febiofest

Hard to believe this is the same director as The Invitation which was almost completely driven by slow-burn tension and twists and turns. Destroyer feels underwhelming and even a bit slow at times. Despite Kidman putting on a show, she never really gets down to the grit of the title. Call me bloodthirsty, but where was the destruction? And the revenge?

Kebbell obviously makes a good villain, but gang leader Silas runs out of steam pretty quick. Rather than flesh out a bit more of the guy’s motivations and past, the flashbacks spend more time looking at Erin and Chris’ developing relationship, which is just OK. The only bit of Silas that we really get is a contrived Russian roulette scene which feels way past its used-by date.

But, Destroyer is still worth a look at for Kidman. You’ve honestly never seen her like this before, and although ‘intense’ isn’t the first word I’d use to describe this film, Theodore Shapiro’s fantastic score does help you get in the mood.

Destroyer is now playing at Prague International Film Festival Febiofest.

Photo: Febiofest



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