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DESTROYER

SYNOPSIS:
LAPD detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) is forced to face her demons when a dead body is found. As a young detective, Erin and her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan) were placed undercover in the California desert to infiltrate a notorious criminal gang, led by their dangerously unstable leader Silas (Toby Kebbell). The operation ended in tragedy. Now, Erin struggles to maintain a relationship with her daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn) and takes this opportunity to find closure and redemption from that chapter long ago.

Review by Louise Keller:
Damaged LAPD detective in search of redemption is the theme of this gritty thriller in which Nicole Kidman strips her physical veneer in what is certainly the most unglamorous role of her career. Wearing black leather, coarse denim and looking as though she could use a good night's sleep and a decent scrub, Kidman's Erin Bell has a dark, hollow look in her eyes that tells us she is in a living hell. It's a brave performance and the story elements are fine, but because it is difficult to connect or feel any sympathy for Erin and our commitment to the character is limited. As a result, being sucked into this intense, grubby world of low life criminals feels claustrophobic and hardly pleasurable. By the end, it is hard to care what happens to the protagonist vigilante, despite her honourable intentions.

A dead body, tattoo markings on the back of the neck and purple dyed dollar notes herald the beginning of a rollercoaster ride in which Erin revisits characters in her past. Pi Hay and Matt Manfredi's screenplay is circular in structure, as Erin assumes her search for Silas (Toby Kebbell, excellent), the unpredictable, dangerous leader of the group she and her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan, appealing) infiltrated 17 years earlier. Different members of the group are the stepping stones on which Erin treads to find Silas.

It is a dark world of shady characters and we see the lengths to which Erin will go to get her man. The scene in which she pleasures an extremely nasty piece of work is a case in point. The disgust on her face tells the story. Using flashback director Karyn Kusama flits back and forth to allow us to understand who are the personalities and what happened in the lead up to and aftermath of the bank robbery that went very wrong. The flashback scenes show Erin in a more attractive light and the development of her relationship with Chris is one of the film's most successful. The other is that with her brattish, wayward 16 year old daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn); watch for the scene towards the end when Erin communicates with her in a way she has not done before.

Production design is suitably grim but Theodore Shapiro's music grates as it accentuates the characters' angst. Kusama meshes the plot points together as the exposition plays out, but there is little satisfaction by the result.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

DESTROYER (MA15+)
(US, 2019)

CAST: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford, Toby Huss, James Jordan, Jade Pettyjohn

PRODUCER: Fred Berger, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

DIRECTOR: Karyn Kusama

SCRIPT: Pi Hay, Matt Manfredi

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Julie Kirkwood

EDITOR: Plummy Tucker

MUSIC: Theodore Shapiro

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kay Lee

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 21, 2019







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