Monsters’ Brawl

Nicole Kidman abandons her skincare routine in Destroyer

Film Review | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Destroyer
Opens January 25

3.5 out of 5

Few actors have been as consistently good as Nicole Kidman for as long as she has. She has three movies right now: a superhero romp (Aquaman), a bittersweet comedy (The Upside) and now a police drama that requires aging her perfect complexion.

Kidman’s cosmetic changes for Destroyer are the film’s most noticeable element, but they’re hardly the most interesting. Director Karyn Kusama (The Invitation) has a proven ability to ratchet up tension while developing characters, and Destroyer is her most accomplished work to date.

As in most of Kusama’s movies, the darkness lurking underneath L.A. provides the setting. Kidman is police detective Erin Bell — a hard-drinking, anti-social, leather-clad law enforcer. Bell seems headed to an early grave when she’s called to consult on a mob-related murder. The body belongs to a member of a bank-robbing crew Erin and her former partner infiltrated over a decade ago — a job that changed the lives of everybody involved.

As Erin pays visits to her former partners-in-crime (all worse for wear), we get a glimpse of the undercover operation and the many grey areas mixing cops and robbers with individual agendas generates. The ultimate target is Silas (Toby Kebbell, Rockanrolla), the Charles Manson-esque leader of the criminal gang, who’s as slippery as he is coldblooded.

There are twists and turns in Destroyer you’re better off not knowing. Suffice it to say the film’s thesis seems to be that redemption isn’t just difficult — more often than not, it goes unacknowledged.

Kusama, who knows her way around an action scene, populates the movie with terrific character actors, from Regina’s Tatiana Maslany to West Wing veteran (and Get Out mad doctor) Bradley Whitford. The focus, however, remains on Kidman. As fine as she is playing a hardboiled gumshoe, it’s hard to get past her haggard appearance, and it’s to the detriment of the movie.

But Charlize Theron pulled it off in Monster, so it can be done.