I went into Destroyer hoping for a high-octane bank heist movie with multiple shootouts starring a grizzled Nicole Kidman in L.A., but this film couldn’t move faster than a tortoise. At least we got a grizzled Nicole Kidman. Call this film Widows 2.0.
When Silas, a psycho, bank-robbing, gang leader emerges from the shadows, running low on money, LAPD detective Erin Bell has to dig 15 years back into her past to find him all on her own, whilst protecting her daughter from making destructive decisions along the way.
Nicole Kidman is hardly recognizable as the detective who time has not treated nicely. Her voice is rough, her complexion rougher. While attractive in flashbacks to her youth, detective Erin Bell in real time looks like she should be on a poster showing the consequences of smoking. When the trailers say, “Nicole Kidman as you’ve never seen before,” they’re not kidding. And Kidman really does embody this role as a hard-edged detective who drinks, trusts no one, and has one hell of a shot. Kidman authentically comes off as someone you shouldn’t f*** with and the film does a good job demonstrating how time and loss have hardened her into the person she becomes. There are no weak spots in the rest of the cast; everyone fulfills their roles excellently.
Where the film comes up short, is in storytelling. Some of the best and most memorable scenes in the film are sequences which weren’t really necessary and added little to the plot or the meaningful development of characters. One scene in which Silas forces one of his own to play a game of Russian roulette or the lengthy and perverse visitation of Bell to one of the former gang members she knew are great and all, but Destroyer never wants to cut to the chase. She’ll be interrogating Silas’ lawyer and he’ll interrupt yelling at his son for him not using his elbow correctly during batting practice, or she’ll chase down a possible source of information in a foot chase because why not? And all this does is add to the film’s runtime. Destroyer struggles to hold your attention and is a threat to put you to sleep, it needed to be trimmed.
The violence is short and brutal; the pain suffered by the characters will be felt by the audience. The film is quiet, and the score is subtle. Once again, another reason why this movie makes it hard to stay awake. The ending is unfortunately underwhelming, it brings the film full circle and for a moment you might be like “Oh, I get what they did there,” but then think about it and say “really, that’s all?” And then after the ending’s little twist, the film tortures you with an exhausting close up on Erin’s eyes before the credits roll.
Destroyer is gritty, perverse, and violent. It showcased the same key elements that makes great detective stories such as the first season of True Detective so good, of which I wish I saw more of throughout the film’s entirety. But in the end, this film is about as forgettable as any other January film and is Oscar bait without a bite. 7/10