Destroyer (** ½) R   

There are many instances that can be cited over the many decades of cinema wherein actors physically transform in such a way as to make themselves unrecognizable in a role. It goes without saying that this is nothing new. Some actors even make a career of it to some degree, as in the case of Sir Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.

The revenge thriller Destroyer contains one of those amazing transformations courtesy of actress Nicole Kidman in the lead role. She’s a Los Angeles detective who could easily be mistaken for a zombie such is her death-like appearance in the film. Her face is haggard and her eyes are brimming with the color of red commonly found in finger nail polish. It’s pretty astonishing to watch and unlike anything she’s ever done up to this point in her career.   

The fact that it’s hard to take your eyes off of Kidman’s performance in the lead role as world-weary detective Erin Bell is probably a good thing. Since the viewer is apt to be so transfixed with Kidman’s performance it’s a lot easier to overlook the flaws of a film that harkens back to better revenge thrillers from days gone by. Destroyer is, pardon the pun, by the book and its influences are readily felt. This is especially evident in its non-linear structure that, reminiscent of Quinten Tarantino in his Pulp Fiction heyday and to a lesser degree, the 1995 masterpiece from director Michael Mann, Heat.   

The film opens with Detective Bell finding out that some characters from her past are getting into the criminal game again after a long dry spell. To be more specific, bank robbing. Their connection to the detective gradually becomes clear as it’s revealed that Bell was once sent to infiltrate a group of bank robbers, only to fall in love with her partner on the case (Sebastian Stan). A tragedy ensued which has haunted Bell ever since. Now that the gang has decided to come up for air again it’s the perfect opportunity for Bell to even the score once and for all.   

Destroyer is directed by Karyn Kusama and she does indeed have a nice flair for some the action scenes, as evidenced in a pivotal bank robbery sequence that’s very effectively staged.  

The problem with the film mainly lies in its script, courtesy of writers Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay, that feels stale and warmed over and chock full of been there, done that scenarios. It just proves once again that it takes more than a great performance to salvage a film bringing nothing new to the plate.

Photo: The great Nicole Kidman in Destroyer

Destroyer is said to be opening soon around this area; that is all the info FOCUS has at press time.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at