Apart from a riveting performance from star Nicole Kidman and a heart-pounding bank heist scene that will leave you absolutely breathless, the new crime thriller Destroyer is somewhat of a confuddled mess. The movie carelessly jumps back and forth between the past and the present and features so many characters and subplots that even the most committed viewer’s head will be spinning.
Kidman plays a veteran LAPD detective named Erin Bell who, worn down to the nub by the rigors of her job and the aftermath of an undercover FBI sting gone horribly wrong, sets out to make peace with her tortured past. When an ink-marked bill arrives in the mail, Bell begins tracking down the members of the gang she had at one time been assigned to bring down.
One by one, she reunites with the ghosts of her past in an attempt to find the gang leader Silas (Toby Kebbell) all while remembering the events that hardened her—including her brief-but-meaningful romance with her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan). The journey encourages her to come to terms with her own culpability in what happened so that she can finally find redemption.
It is difficult to keep track of all the characters who come into contact with Bell—especially because the movie’s makeup crew did such an incredible job making the actors look younger in the scenes set in the past and older in the scenes set in the present. Plus, there are simply so many of them—all of whom look ragged and ravaged by drugs—that it is easy to become exasperated by the entire ordeal.
In addition to Bell’s dealings with the gang members and the mysterious sting that led her to this life of despair, there’s also the problem of her rebellious 16-year-old daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn). I suppose the scenes they share show how the situation had a domino effect on her life but they also seem more like a distraction than anything else. However, of all the film’s subplots, this one is the most deserving of its own movie—which would have likely been better than the one we get in Destroyer.
Having said that, Kidman is incredible in the film. Her performance in a role that is unlike any other we’ve seen her in before may be in and of itself reason enough for some to see Destroyer. It is far from a glamorous role and instead quite haunting, revealing something significant about our humanity—especially when it comes to facing the truth about the choices we’ve made in the past and how some of them define us.
But too often during Destroyer did I find myself simply staring at the screen, appreciating Kidman’s performance and her character’s struggle without really comprehending the chain of events. It is all just too confusing to retain our interest. Moreover, there are far too few moments of genuine excitement in the movie and the final revelation comes way before the end credits begin to roll, leaving the story to slowly sizzle out until its impact is eventually dulled.