By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Redemption takes many forms, and like the protagonist of the neo-noir film Destroyer, sometimes one has to get downright dirty to accomplish it.  The new film from director Karyn Kusama (The Invitation) is a prime example of this nasty, regressive process.  Nicole Kidman’s character, Erin Bell, is already in a very low place, but she definitely wants to right her wrongs.  Sadly, it was good intentions that got her there in the first place, but greed is a very seductive force that just doesn’t want to let go.  Kusama’s new film is a thematically dark and gripping journey that demands the best of Kidman’s acting abilities and tge willingness to shed aesthetic beauty for raw brute force.

Kidman’s Erin Bell works as an undercover LAPD detective who, with her partner, Chris (Sebastian Stan), have infilitrated a band of drugged out thieves.  Lead by Silas (Toby Kebbell), the group loves their drugs and armed robbery.  Many years later after a robbery goes very wrong, and after her once happy life has been nearly destroyed by her deep undercover work, Erin seizes an opportunity to redeem the sins of her past even if it means getting her hands filthy.

Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer is a gritty and intense piece of crime cinema that deserves some praise despite its shortcomings.  This is some genuinely scuzzy material that features a protagonist whose strength and determination can charm her way into the hearts of her audience.  The development of this character does lack a sufficient back story, but it is Kidman’s intense performance that helps sell her empathy.

Almost unrecognizable, Kidman (with the help of makeup) looks broken and nasty.  Her acting, howevet, makes her realization of Erin Bell an undeniable force.  She mixes pain and strength into a near volatile combination that gives her character drive and focus.  The film also can boast great turns by Sebastian Stan, who portrays Bell’s ambitious and hungry partner Chris and Toby Kebbell who oozes sleaze and wickedness as Silas.

And though, this film isn’t quite extraordinary, it is still a very memorable and compelling piece.  Because of  Karyn Kusama’s direction and Nicole Kidman’s acting, Destroyer is definitely a must see film for fans of crime cinema.

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