The movie is a fine movie, at least to me, though many don't feel that way. It is a must-see.
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The movie is a fine movie, at least to me, though many don't feel that way. It is a must-see.
The less you know going into this the more you'll enjoy it, as the first half of the film unravels, you will be inclined to question Kusama's direction, but as she peels back the layers of the film you will recogonize the sheer talent that is behind this movie.
8.6 - Oscar worthy
Kidman's disheveled look in this film is meant to reflect years of anguish and burn-out, in short the psychological toll of her job. An absolutely desolute view of Los Angeles is seen through her exhausted, but still enraged eyes. Another plot layer deals with her challenging relationship with her teenage daughter who has gone astray. Those around Kidman's character rarely see things her way, but that's because she has a past of her own to resolve.
Recommended as slow-burn material that gradually earns one's respect, even though I think a better editor would have made this a tighter film.
While at times the film felt as if it was hitting all the beats you would expect in an Action/Revenge story, but without spoiling the third act, it did its best to add some unique twists to the otherwise conventional story.
Some characters remain underdeveloped and seem to exist only to serve Kidman's arc, and the film almost comes to a grinding halt whenever it focuses too heavily on Kidman's relationship with her daughter. Also, during the daytime, the film is almost shot like a procedural crime drama.
Overall though, the result is a thought provoking action film with plenty of redeeming qualities. I would rate it either a 6 or a 7.
Kidman is made up to look like a beaten woman, but we do get a few too many flashbacks to show us how beautiful she was as a young brunette cop with a future. Director Karyn Kusama keeps the camera close on Kidman, as if she were begging us not to forget that underneath some neat makeup beats the heart and face of a super movie star.
Beyond Kidman's overpowering presence, some solid performances emerge, for instance Sebastian Stan as Chris, her loving partner; and Beau Knapp, as the boyfriend Jay no one would want for your daughter. Myriad other minor characters reflect the complex world of LA, real and romantic. It's the best city I know for attractive crime and fetching diversity.
Perhaps the awareness of glamorous Kidman as a squinting Dirty Harry is what steers the film and her performance to mediocrity. This observation may condemn Kidman to playing courtesans and rich mothers, but the reality is that she has over the years crafted an enviable persona relying partly on her unusually good looks. Perhaps this rough detective will allow us to forget that image as she plays in more gritty roles that display, without distraction, a world-class actress.
If you are a Kidman fan (I became one after Moulin Rouge), see Destroyer, which just may pleasantly erase your picture of perfection.
'Give me the info I need to move the plot along' 'No' 'Give it to me' 'No' 'GIVE IT TO ME' 'Ok'
Plus Kidman looks comical and stiff with all that makeup on.
Ms. Kidman, an Oscar winner for THE HOURS (2002), is an excellent actress and has had a wonderful career, but this is something altogether different for her. She plays LAPD Detective Erin Bell, a worn-down, emotionally shattered shell of the idealistic cop who, 17 years earlier, was part of an undercover operation that went tragically and violently wrong. Director Karyn Kusama (JENNIFER'S BODY, 2009) bounces back and forth on the timelines - sometimes we are viewing Erin's undercover work with her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan), and others we get the haggard Erin of present day. The contrast is stark.
The ghost of case past has returned, and we witness what has haunted her these many years. Past decisions and actions have rotted her spirit, while alcohol has since destroyed her body. She is a wreck - physically and emotionally, and her reputation within the force is shot. It wouldn't be totally accurate to describe her as self-destructive since she has already destructed. The only thing keeping her going is booze and a desire for revenge.
Flashbacks take us through her early work with the crime gang led by Silas (Toby Kebbell), a master of psychological manipulation (think Charles Manson). We also see Erin's too-close connection to partner Chris, and a terrific bank heist scene explains how things went down. Now it's 17 years later, and Silas has resurfaced. Erin wonders why. We also see Erin's feeble attempts to be a mother to her 16 year old daughter (do the math) Shelby, played by Jade Pettyjohn. The two have only a sliver of a relationship as Shelby lives with Erin's ex Ethan (the eternally underutilized Scoot McNairy).
Other support work is provided by Tatiana Maslany as one of Silas' gang, and Bradley Whitford as a scummy defense attorney. Erin has a sequence with the latter that emphasizes just how alone she is. When asked where her partner is, we realize she has no partner with her and no back-up on the way ... she is a lonely, desperate, rogue cop with a murky plan and a head clouded by booze.
Writing partners Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (known for CLASH OF THE TITANS and RIDE ALONG) deliver very few surprises with the script, leaving the burden on Ms. Kidman to keep us interested. And despite her character's train wreck of a life, the performance is quite something to behold ... her look, her gait, and even her whispered voice - all point to a woman hanging on by a thread and lacking basic daily energy to show any signs of hope. Director Kusama adds texture by showing many non-touristy areas of Los Angeles, and filming the two timelines in such a way that the structure works - although the Erin in shambles is far more intriguing than the younger one. On a separate note, there should be a special Oscar for the make-up team that managed to make the usually glamorous Ms. Kidman look realistically shattered.
Tatiana Maslany is solid in a small, but, crucial role. The other supporting players are fine, even if they are mainly given stock parts to play. Much of the movie comes off as an extended pilot for a limited cable/streaming series. Too much of the distended runtime is given over to exposition with some scenes are edited in the loose manner of a TV series rather than a feature, with several dragging on well past the point of any plot or character development necessary. Theodore Shapiro's driving score tries its best to keep things moving, and Julie Kirkwood's cinematography adds some stylish moments. Despite its limitations, DESTROYER is decent drama which works mainly as a character piece. Some tightening and a few more original concepts would have made the whole equal to Kidman's performance.
Yes, Nicole Kidman goes against type and plays a down-and-out policewoman. Good for her. Now that Nicole's got it out of her system, let's go back to roles she can play better. And Tatiana Maslany shows up and gives an inspired scene. Of course.
HOWEVER....The movie shifts mercilessly between the present and 17 years before. Just as you figure out (if you're lucky) what's going on in the segment you're watching, poof, you shift times. Nicole is the focus, which is fine, and it's easy enough to keep track of her despite the time shifting. But the men....was it my imagination, or did they all have beards? Some guys (I'm guessing here, since I couldn't keep them straight) showed up in just one segment in one time period; others seemed to show up in a past and then a present segment. Every time the movie shifted times, it plopped you down in a new situation, so you had to figure out who was who and what was going on. Frankly, this was beyond my feeble abilities. I couldn't keep either the plot or the men straight.
The director, Karyn Kusama, was at the screening. (I had never heard of her before, nor had I ever seen any of her other movies.) I asked her about the time shifting, the confusion, and who all the guys were. She said she sympathized ("poor feeble-minded idiot...") but stuck to her "vision." She talked about a "rhythm" of the past vs. present segments. As chance would have it, she was standing outside the theatre afterwards, and I expanded on my question: How 80% of my attention was spent trying to figure out which guy was which, and how the time shifting made it all unnecessarily confusing. I suggested (not very tactfully, I admit) that she made the movie for film school students, not the general public. Her answer to that was revealing: "If you watched it two or three times, you would see the richness...." Excuse me!! Hello!! who watches a movie two-three times and analyzes all the details? The general public or film school students? She confirmed my point.
Was I alone in my confusion? After she answered my question in the Q&A, the guy behind me tapped me on my shoulder and said, "You're right." In line for another movie the next morning, there was a group of six people who had seen "Destroyer" the night before. I simply asked "What did you think of the movie?" They all thought it was confusing. And a few days later, I met a very famous and experienced actress (no names, I don't want to get her in trouble) and asked her if she had seen "Destroyer." She had. "What did you think of it?" I asked. "It was very confusing," she said. I rest my case.
Now another thing that bothered me was Nicole saying "Silas is back." Unless I'm more confused than I realize, I think she says that BEFORE she gets a dyed bank note in the mail from Silas. So HOW does she know he's back??? It that a mistake in continuity???
I'm left wondering why they didn't show this to two separate focus groups: First, the movie as is, with constant time shifting. Then a second version that is linear--it starts at the beginning and goes to the end. No time shifting. In my opinion, a linear movie would have just as much suspense, but eliminate all the confusion. Why don't studios do that? Because they're making movies for film school students?
Of the complaints I noticed before buying a ticket anyway, the ones that most worried me were as follows:
1. Nicole Kidman's makeup wasn't believable - False. Looks fine.
2. Nicole Kidman's accent wasn't believable - False. No accent. Seriously whoever said Clint Eastwood must have meant Dirty Harry, but even then there was very little to complain about.
3. The story was unbelievable - Disagree, but there are some questionable plot devices. Still don't make it unwatchable or decrease ability to suspend disbelief.
All in all this was a pretty good movie. Some minor changes could have made it more tight but I was a fan up until the final, stupid, unnecessary sequence that spent about 10 minutes on unnecessary flashbacks and views of the protagonist dying in her car as we got closeups on skateboarding kids under an overpass. Totally random and if they had left that last 10-15 minutes out, my rating would have been an 8.
The story. LAPD detective Erin Bell looks and behaves like a walking dead in the huge and violent city. She actually may have virtually died 16 years ago, when an undercover mission she took part in went wrong. Nothing seems to raise positive feelings in her, not even the relationship with her teenage daughter who prefers to live with her ex-husband, and seems to be making some bad choices in her own life. The only feeling that may motivate her is a desire for revenge which is awaken when a murder that seems to be related to her past happens. There are two story lines in the film and the action oscillates between the two: one is the very unorthodox murder inquiry which Erin is conducting merely in order to find the man behind the destruction of her life, and the flashbacks that will gradually clarify the reasons of her behavior in the events that turned upside down the path of her life.
What I liked. Film director Karyn Kusama succeeds to make clear both the psychological thriller story and the action scenes. Nicole Kidman's acting is convincing, and her make-up in the present day is excellent.
What I liked less. While the script is well-written and we slowly discover the dark past of the character, there is one big flaw that makes the whole story less credible. I believe that even in the crime-ridden LA described in the film, a police officer with such an erratic behavior would be suspended on the spot, not trusted to bear a gun and a badge of law officer. For a film that aspires to be realistic, this is a huge mistake in my opinion. There is also nothing likeable in this film, not even the lead character, certainly not the reality around her. Despite its ambitions the film is hard to watch, maybe also lasts a bit longer than necessary. Getting back again to 'Monster', that film had a social and moral messages. In 'Destroyer' it's just one bad choice in the past that seems to impact everything, the rest is pulp fiction and very grim reality.