Destroyer Succeeds as a No-Nonsense Crime Drama 

click to enlarge Nicole Kidman goes haggard in Destroyer.

SABRINA LANTOS/ANNAPURNA PICTURES

Nicole Kidman goes haggard in Destroyer.

We're all familiar with movie stars whom we've known since they were young and unblemished scoring new credibility by appearing in middle age as grizzled, crusty versions of their once-glamorous selves. Karyn Kusama's Destroyer adds a new twist to heroism-gone-to-seed, not just by virtue of a gender switch — this time the hard-drinking, puffy-eyed, burned-out cop is Nicole Kidman — but by adding a new element to the time-ravaged principal. We see Kidman, along with many of her criminal colleagues, looking suitably haggard, but if the stretch from our memories of the star's younger roles isn't enough, we also see her in flashbacks from fifteen years earlier, CGI-enhanced to her Moulin Rouge-era youthfulness.

Kidman plays Erin Bell, a Los Angeles detective drowning in guilt and alcohol until a minor homicide convinces her that figures from a past assignment infiltrating a desert gang have come back looking for revenge. Director Kusama, a St. Louis native, is at her best when she treats the original script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi as a no-nonsense hard-boiled crime drama. The film turns softer at the end, but by that time Kidman has invested so much into her performance that the few loose ends and wisps of sentiment can be ignored.

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