De-Glamorizing Nicole Kidman Can’t Save ‘Destroyer’

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CHICAGO – If you are in a particular frame of mind you can kinda see why someone thought “Destroyer” would be a good idea. It’s got an Academy Award winner, doing a physical transformation, and has a hard-boiled detective story. All of these elements in the right hands could have added up to awards show adulation.

It’s an exercise in style over substance, where paradoxically the absence of glamor is the defining trait. But ugly does not automatically mean gritty especially if you don’t have anything interesting to say. And it’s only reason to exist is to allow Nicole Kidman to go to the glamorous-star-gets-ugly school of awards show acting. Kidman here stars as psychologically damaged detective Erin Bell, on the trail of a bank robbing gang with whom she had some history. She went deep undercover and is still trying to piece together her shattered life from that experience.

De-Glamor Profession: Nicole Kidman in ‘Destroyer’
Photo credit: Annupura Pictures

The film flashes back and forth between grizzled Kidman-as-Bell today on the trail and the young cop (simply with long hair instead) back when she was embedded in the gang. The direction by Karyn Kusuma is “artsy” in a way that constantly calls attention to itself. But the mood and moodiness here come off as labored and forced.

Kidman won an Oscar once by sticking on a false nose in “The Hours.” Charlize Theron has turned ugly-ing up into her standard operating procedure in anything that might attract the Academy attention, so the schtick has lost its novelty by now. Here Kidman stumbles around in a bad wig and seemingly little or no makeup begging for attention, and for us to notice the sacrifice she’s made for her art. Her willingness to deglamorize herself however is not a compelling reason to hand over two hours of your life.

“Destroyer” is no “Serpico” (the 1973 police drama starring Al Pacino), although it desperately wants that kind of adoration. It’s not an easy movie to sit through, and it offers nothing to chew on for the experience. It’s not profound, it’s not interesting. The best I can say is that at least it’s in focus.

Gunning for an Oscar in ‘Destroyer’
Photo credit: Annupura Pictures

“Destroyer” is as artificial and phony as Kidman’s self-conscious ugly routine. Any award or nominations should go to audience members who have the patience to sit through the film all the way to end.

“Destroyer” opens in Chicago on January 11th, part of a nationwide release. See local listings for theaters and show times. Featuring Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan and Bradley Whitford. Screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Directed by Karen Kusama. Rated “R” contributor Spike Walters


© 2019 Spike Walters,

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