Review: Destroyer

Nicole Kidman in Destroyer

Destroyer is not an easy film to watch. Detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) is not an easy woman to like. She’s a broken woman trying with her last ounce of energy to make right the mistakes of her past.

The performance from Nicole Kidman is breathtaking. If you are a fan of Nicole Kidman because she’s beautiful and stunning to look at, you’ll hate this film. She’s a mess here – full of pain, regret, guilt, and too much booze. She’s unkempt, unbathed, and looks like she’s on her last legs. She speaks in a low rasp, almost a whisper.

As Destroyer moves ever so slowly toward its climactic moments, Erin is beaten viciously twice, dragging her even more toward her final atonement.

Sebastian Stan and Nicole Kidman in Destroyer
Two young undercover cops who fall in love.

The storyline is that Erin and her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan) went undercover about 15 years ago. They were placed inside a gang of bank robbers run by Silas (Toby Kebbell). They fell in love while pretending to be in love.

And they fell prey to greed. They wanted some of the millions the gang would get from the next robbery. Things went wrong. Bad things happened. Erin felt responsible for a great many losses that happened during the robbery.

Erin could never get things right after that. She couldn’t communicate well with her daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn). She wanted Ethan (Scoot McNairy), who wasn’t actually Shelby’s biological father, to take charge of her wild 16 year old because she wasn’t capable of dealing with her.

The evil Silas gets out of jail and kills a man, leaving a message for Erin that he’s back. She’s going to find him and kill him. Retribution, revenge, justice – call it what you want, but she won’t be deterred. Erin ignores her partner (Shamier Anderson) and won’t answer calls from other cops.

She visits old gang members, Silas’ lawyer (Bradley Whitford), and finally finds Petra (Tatiana Maslany).

She can follow Petra to find Silas.

The two-hour movie moves in circles between the past and the present. As Erin finds clues, old gang members, people from her undercover days, we see flashbacks of that part of the story. That means the information and clues are spaced out between past and present, giving the film an air of mystery.

Karyn Kusama directed Destroyer. She used gritty settings, blazing heat, and Kidman’s pained performance to create a gut-wrenching experience full of violence and anger.

This movie isn’t for everyone. It’s long and slow. Nicole Kidman isn’t pretty. It’s brutal. But director Karyn Kusama gives you something to ponder and remember with this hard-hitting story. It’s unpleasantly brilliant.

Nicole Kidman in Destroyer
Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds

The final moments are quiet, perhaps there’s peace at last, perhaps there’s still nothing but pain, but the battle is over.

The film is currently on Amazon Video, Hulu, and several other streamers.

If you have seen this film, please share your reactions. I know people’s opinions are all over the spectrum on this one.

4 thoughts on “Review: Destroyer”

  1. If Kidman ever deserved an award it’s for this, playing outside her comfort zone as a deeply damaged woman. The rest of the cast matches her, beat for beat. Particularly outstanding is Sebastian Stan, who will not remind anyone of Bucky Barnes in this, and Bradley Whitford who will make viewers wonder whatever happened to that sweet guy on West Wing. The movie is dark, edgy, puzzling, but worth the effort to fit all pieces together when the final twist comes.

  2. I really liked this movie. It was a crime mystery that was challenging, with the back and forth in time, and had excellent acting and a powerful build of suspense. The scene at the end with her daughter was amazing. I did not figure it out until the very end. I backtracked a few times to rewatch scenes that moved too fast- theater goers could not and might have been confused. But it is perfect for home viewers

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