Nicole Kidman is the only bright spot in “Destroyer,” a grim yawner of lackluster brooding from director Karyn Kusama. This stale noir thriller does little new or exciting, and eventually falls into the same old trappings that we’ve all seen a million times before.
The film tells the story of LAPD detective Erin Bell (Kidman), a now-alcoholic who is struggling to face the demons of the her past. When she was younger, Erin was placed undercover with a gang, fell in love with her partner (Sebastian Stan), slipped into the drug-fueled lifestyle, and drove the getaway car in a bank robbery that went tragically wrong. There was unfinished business that suddenly blasts its way back into her life as the leader of the gang resurfaces many years later. Erin’s story is told in flashbacks as the mystery, which isn’t that compelling to begin with, slowly unfolds.
Nicole Kidman is this generation’s Meryl Streep, an actor so outrageously talented that she elevates everything she’s in, no matter how mediocre the film. That’s the case here. Kidman is fantastic, but she always is. And hiding behind layers of makeup that’s intended to make her unattractive doesn’t make her considerable performance even more so. It’s an unnecessary gimmick.
Erin is a strong (if morally corrupt) character in a year of tenacious onscreen female leads, making it even more disappointing that she’s wasted in a predictable film like this. Our anti-heroine is complex and complicated, an unlikable woman who is pained with regret. It’s a layered performance, but a lackluster movie.