Sunday, December 23, 2018

Movie with Abe: Destroyer

Directed by Karyn Kusama
Released December 25, 2018

Actors almost always receive plenty of attention when they go through incredible physical transformations for a role. This can involve gaining or losing a substantial amount of weight or either applying or removing considerable makeup so that the character barely resembles the person portraying them. That buzz can overwhelm the project itself, with the star getting all the write-ups rather than the film. The last time Nicole Kidman appeared dramatically different on screen was in her Oscar-winning role in “The Hours,” and now she’s back with an altogether darker and grimmer portrait of someone who looks very little like she usually does.

Detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) is a shell of her former self years after a traumatic experience during an undercover operation with her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan). Antisocial and easily angered, Erin is reluctantly thrust back into the world that so scarred her as she attempts to track down the leader of the gang, Silas (Toby Kebbell), and his most loyal devotee, Petra (Tatiana Maslany). With a rebellious daughter, Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn), threatening to go down the wrong path, Erin must delve deep within herself to uncover long-suppressed memories that will help her put everything in the past once and for all.

The image of Erin’s wearied and hardened face adorns the poster for this film and serves as its defining still, capturing all that she has been through as Erin wears her pain in every moment. This film simultaneously plays out in the present and in the past, where Erin is considerably fuller of light and positivity, not yet aware of how profoundly her undercover work will affect the trajectory of her life. The difference in the two Erins is incredible, and Kidman does deserve commendation for being able to paint these two characters who seem nothing alike and portray them in the same film.

Kidman has received praise for her work, though this turn doesn’t really compare to some of her best past performances. In a relatively small scene-stealing role, Maslany demonstrates that she should always get top billing after her incredible lead work in “Orphan Black.” This film, which is reminiscent of many other police dramas with similar themes, suffers from several structural issues, with plot developments casting the legitimacy of its narrative in doubt and diminishing its overall effectiveness. The examination of a woman devastated by her past has merit, but the surrounding story is much weaker than its lead character.


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