Review: Destroyer (TIFF 2018)

Destroyer (TIFF 2018)
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PLOT: A worn-out, alcoholic LA cop (Nicole Kidman) is forced to confront old demons when an enemy from her past reemerges.

REVIEW: Karyn Kusama’s DESTROYER is, for me, the big surprise of this year’s TIFF. Having been a big fan of her last film, THE INVITATION, as well as the under-appreciated JENNIFER’S BODY, I must admit that this is a huge leap forward for her as a director that I’m sure is going to change her career in a major way. A departure from the genre she’s devoted most of her efforts to in recent years, DESTROYER evokes directors such as Nicolas Winding Refn and, at its best, Michael Mann, with the bold twist being that it’s done from a female perspective.

Granted, this isn’t the first female cop movie, but trust me when I say you’ve never seen one like DESTROYER, at least not with a female lead. There’s a very real possibility that, had this been done with a male protagonist, DESTROYER would be well-liked but not quite as notable, but the fact that our typical hard-edged, alcoholic, dead-beat cop is portrayed as a woman — and by Nicole Kidman no less — makes this incendiary. We’ve never had a female action lead presented in so unvarnished a fashion.

?For one thing, any movie star vanity’s been abandoned by Kidman, with her looking like absolute hell in the part. Sporting filthy hair, rotting teeth, alcohol-caused liver spots and a constant grimace, she’s unrecognizable. We only get glimpses of the star we know through flashbacks (in which she looks strikingly young) depicting an earlier time in her career, when she’s embedded with an FBI agent (Sebastian Stan) in an undercover assignment. Basically, they have to infiltrate a cult-like crew of bank-robbers, run by Toby Kebbell’s Silas and Tatiana Maslany’s Petra. Something bad happens leaving Kidman’s Erin Bell a shell of her old self a decade and a half later, kicking off the main meat of the plot, which sees Silas and Petra re-emerge.

It’s a noirish, evocative journey into L.A, sporting plenty of juicy star character turns, from Toby Huss as a nice guy bureau agent, Bradley Whitford as a scumbag lawyer and Scoot McNairy as Bell’s ex. Another big twist is that Bell’s shown to be a deadbeat mom, something very rare but would not be unusual at all were the protagonist a man. It’s a unique twist that’s used to great dramatic effect.

Kidman’s performance, for my money, is one of the best of her career, and an iconic action part that reinvents her as an actress. She’s well-supported by an edgier-than-usual Stan, as well as a charismatic Kebbell and Maslany in what’s really an amazing part. Kusama’s action scenes are top shelf, with a bank robbery midway through both action packed and terrifying in its intensity. In fact, there are a lot of terrific action beats, while Theodore Shapiro’s score is a game-changer for a guy mostly confined to comedies.

Its crazy to say, but in a festival filled with Oscar contenders, the low-key, noirish DESTROYER is the one that I think is going to stick with me the most. It’s an unforgettable crime epic from a perspective I can truly say is unique. It’s a new classic of the genre and one of the best films of the year.

Source: JoBlo.com



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