Excerpts from my 9.1.18 Telluride review of Karyn Kusama‘s Destroyer: “I’ve been in and out on director Karyn Kusama — loved Girlfight, hated Aeon Flux, loathed Jennifer’s Body but found The Invitation a truly fascinating creepout. And now Destroyer.
“This is a complex L.A. crime tale about Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman), a wasted, walking-dead Los Angeles detective trying to settle some bad business and save her daughter from a life of crime and misery. It unfolds through a complex, pain-in-the-ass flashback structure, and is punctuated by all kinds of nihilistic, hard-boiled behavior by the mostly criminal flotsam characters.
“Destroyer has guns, uniformed cops, blood, a scene in the Westwood Federal building cafeteria, purple ink, ugly asshole criminals with sickening haircuts, drugs, a handjob given to a dying criminal slob, a bank shootout. Everything in this well-made if godforsaken film is scuzzy in a just-so way. Everyone and everything is covered in the stuff. Even I felt scuzzed out from my seat in the tenth row of the Herzog.
“Destroyer is mostly about the way Kidman looks, like a combination vampire-zombie with dark eye bags and a complexion that suggests a heroin habit mixed with twice-daily injections of embalming fluid. Plus a Desolation Row, gray-streaked hair style. It’s also about the whispery way in which she speaks. I swear to God I missed over half of her dialogue.
“Kidman and Kusama are basically saying to us, ‘Have you guys ever seen such a badass, hardass undercover female cop in your moviegoing life? Even in a zombie movie?’ HE answer: No, I’ve never seen a cop character who looks this wasted, this dead-to-the-world, this gutted, this excavated, this George Romero, this Bela Lugosi-ish. Hats off.
“Congrats also to costars Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany, Bradley Whitford, Toby Kebbell, Scoot McNairy and Jade Pettyjohn. They all make you feel the way Kusama wants you to feel. They complete the effect.”