Destroyer

Directed by Karyn Kusama best known for 2000’s Girlfight and 2009’s Jennifer’s Body, Destroyer is a very gritty crime drama exploring the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles and is truly remarkable for the tour de force acting performance given by an unrecognizable Nicole Kidman. Clearly living a troubled life filled with alcoholism and regrets, the downtrodden and physically weathered LAPD Detective Erin Bell, played by the extraordinary Oscar winner Nicole Kidman in a truly transformative role, finds herself intricately involved in a murder investigation of an unknown victim. A majority of the film uses the rather unusual yet extremely effective flashback narrative device, which reveals the complicated nature of Bell who at one point worked as an undercover officer for a criminal gang in Los Angeles almost fifteen years before the present day. We witness her and her partner Chris, played by Sebastian Stan, pretending to be criminals involved in a bank robbery for a gang headed by the dangerous Silas, played by Toby Kebbell. Bell and Chris’s relationship becomes much more close than they expected and their involvement with the eventual robbery becomes something more than just an undercover investigation. During the present day, Bell encounters several of the key gang members to find the whereabouts of Silas who may still be alive. Underscoring her gritty life, she is a rather terrible mother to her deeply troubled teenage daughter and has a contentious relationship with her ex-husband Ethan, played by Scoot McNairy, who tries his best to take care of the daughter. The filmmaker does an excellent job of developing a rather unlikeable character whose motivations we never really know by presenting side-by-side the character’s messy and morally ambiguous personal and professional lives. It is definitely a depressing movie and is not for the faint of heart as Detective Bell does some legally dubious interrogations of criminals, including a wealthy money launderer, played by Emmy winner Bradley Whitford and Silas’ drug-addicted girlfriend Petra, played by Emmy winner Tatiana Maslany. Overall, I found it to be a deeply compelling crime drama that provides enough twists and turns to make for a wholly unique movie that defies the crime genre and is the perfect showcase for Nicole Kidman who is somehow made ugly and gives one of her best performances in her already illustrious career.

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