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Byron Shire
August 4, 2021

Cinema reviews: Destroyer

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Is this really how the LAPD go about their business? A bank robbery is in progress. Six masked gunmen are holding the staff and customers in terror. Three coppers turn up, a couple with automatic rifles, and they storm into the bank firing blindly at anything that moves. It beggars belief that in the US this might be seen as standard operational procedure, but it is sold to us in the movies ad nauseam. This is one of those dark and gritty flicks in which you begin to wonder at the half-way point just how much longer you might be prepared to spend with a collection of so many unpleasant characters – which is to say, everybody is tough and they all swear a lot (but don’t smoke ciggies). Nicole Kidman is Erin Bell, a detective who has ‘lost it’ after a botched undercover job in which she was involved resulted in the death of Chris (Sebastian Stan), a fellow police officer and the father of her child. The hair and makeup people have made her look like the living dead and she carries herself accordingly. Erin has a constantly downcast expression that is accompanied by a low, almost whispering vocal delivery that renders much of her dialogue almost incomprehensible. She has become active again after discovering that Silas (Toby Kebbell), the murderous villain responsible for her fall from grace, is back in town. The story is told with constant flashbacks to when Erin and Chris were infiltrating Silas’s gang, interspersed with her tracking down her nemesis. The sidelight is how, as a mother, she is determined to keep her impressionable sixteen-year-old daughter, Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn), out of Los Angeles’s gangsta underworld. The circular plot – ending with a surprise reveal that had been cleverly concealed throughout – is tight and not too complicated, the score heavy-handed, and the violence customary. It’s absorbing, but not an easy film to like, and I didn’t care in the least what happened to Erin, despite director Karyn Kusama’ mawkish last shots.

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