Since the Captain is doing a review of John Wick 3 this week (which is freaking great, by the way!) I thought that I might review another action-like piece. OK, full disclosure, this isn’t really an action piece so much as a dark crime-thriller, but it’s listed under the category of action on IMDB and I had this one ready for a review, so that’s what you’re getting this week
I missed this one at the major festivals and in its run in theaters, which bummed me out because the trailer I saw (strangely, I only saw one trailer for this before my screening of Vice, but nowhere else) made me really excited to check this one out.
Nicole Kidman is going full-on method, apparently never wanting to take off her leather jacket, even when the camera wasn’t rolling and sitting in the makeup chair as several people worked on her hardened, distressed look simultaneously.
In addition, this one kind of looks like a female-centric, grounded take on the “Cop gets pulled out of retirement for one last case” genre, which really made me want to see what the filmmakers did with it and what they added to the genre/story to keep it fresh.
And this directed by Karyn Kusama who helmed The Invitation and has directed episodes of The Man in the High Castle, Masters of Sex and Halt and Catch Fire, so she is certainly a director to be on the lookout for.
Plus, this film is filled with people who have had minor supporting parts in features in the past and/or have done some great television work, so I am glad to see them get an opportunity to perform on the big screen.
The actors in this piece range from Scoot McNairy (who was fantastic in the awesome True Detective Season 3), Tatiana Maslany (who is in Orphan Blackwhich I am ashamed to say I have only watched Season 1 of), Sebastian Stan (our Winter Soldier in the MCU) and Beau Knapp (Blueface in The Nice Guys). Talk about an interesting supporting cast!
So, what did I think of Destroyer?
Props to the makeup department, as Nicole Kidman is nearly unrecognizable. That also speaks to her performance, which is lethargic and rattled from the booze and cigarettes that the character inhales like oxygen.
There are some nice, subtle visual cues in this film too – like the fact that Erin (Nicole Kidman) has three scars on the back of her neck in a similar pattern to a tattoo found on the neck of a dead man.
I like Erin’s friendship with Gil (Toby Huss) – it felt familiar and like they really cared about one another.
Sebastian Stan is great as her former partner (Chris – seen in Flashbacks) – though we could use more of his and Erin’s relationship, what we get is very well-done.
The scene with the dealer “taking his daughter to work” where he has strapped his child into a car seat next to a bag full of weapons is pretty frightening — it is, however, played for a chuckle when he says”I’m an involved parent” which I’m not sure was the best way to frame that situation.
Very True Detective Season 1 or 3 vibes with the continued flashbacks intercut with a broken person in present day.
In fact, this film really feels like True Detective: The Movie
I also kind of like the idea of Silas (our main antagonist) not being seen, but just being this looming presence in the background of the investigation who everyone is afraid of. That is really well-done as it introduces and defines a character without needing him on screen.
The Russian roulette scene was tense – a scene in the past in which Silas forces a kid (Arturo) to put a loaded gun to his head and pull the trigger.
DiFranco – Silas’ money guy – is a jerk, but he does kind of have a point when he tells Erin —
You ever see Super Chicken? Stupid fuckin’ cartoon, old. No? Anyway, every time they get into a jam, Super Chicken’s sidekick would start to complain, and Super Chicken would say, “You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred!”
You chose to play cops and robbers, and you lost – big.
Part of it is the smug performance by Bradley Whitford which sells it, but I do like this piece of dialogue.
Normally I would comment on the fact that Erin and the two uniformed officers went into the bank that was being robbed by criminals with automatic weapons without any backup, but I love Nicole Kidman’s line “This is a fucking gun fight.” so I’ll let it pass.
I really like that they added in that Erin and Chris got greedy in the past and instead of arresting Silas and his gang, they went with him and robbed the bank, thinking they might be able to take a cut and run. It is a good twist and makes us question everything we think and feel about Erin and everything that we have been told up until this point.
It is also an interesting surprise that Ethan (Erin’s ex) knows about the money she took from the heist and they hid it together.
I did like that the money she stored away from the heist was ruined by the dye packs exploding – meaning she didn’t actually get the money that so many people died for and that she threw away her life for. It’s very cruelly ironic and fits perfectly with the tone this film has set.
I like the score as Erin goes to face Silas for their final showdown – I didn’t notice the score too much in this film, but it is very effective in this moment.
Now, in the “What Needed Work” section I criticized Toby Kebbell’s wig, but he is super effective and creepy in the final showdown (in the present). I feel as if it would have been even better if we had only seen him in this last moment, rather than in several scenes before. Just to let the idea of this monster build and to keep us on edge throughout.
——————————————- OOOOOHHHH SNAP! I LOVE THE TWIST!!!!!————————————
The fact that everything we saw at the beginning – with her driving up to a crime scene with a dead body covered in dyed bills – was actually taking place in the present and everything that we followed happened in the past and was what led up to this showdown with Silas (making Silas the body that the cops found at the start) totally took me by surprise. Props to this film – I did not expect that at all!
The ending is haunting and beautiful – it was a bit expected that she wouldn’t necessarily make it through, but the way it is done sets it apart and is very melancholy, while still giving us the sense that she found redemption or at least some peace.
*SPOILERS ARE FINISHED*
What Needed Work
Some cliche lines of dialogue, such as:
What happened was, we put you and Chris in there too green. It was a shit deal. You weren’t ready.
This is in reference to something that happened in her past where people got hurt.
I could have done without the addition of Erin’s daughter – it just felt like we had seen it before (the detective’s kid acting out) and was the least interesting part of the story. I know why they kept her in the film, but from my perspective, they could have done without her inclusion.
This seems like something that could have been cut completely and would have tightened up the film even more. Plus, it wasn’t even really Erin’s “Save the Cat” Moment as neither Erin nor the girl’s father, Ethan (Scoot McNairy), are great parents or really seem to care all that much about their 16 year old daughter who doesn’t come home at nights, hardly goes to school and is, apparently, living with her 24 year old boyfriend and hanging out in bars.
No spoilers, but Erin does have a few moments towards the end where we get to see that she does care, which is nice, but I still stand by my assertion that this whole plotline could have been cut.
She beats up DiFranco’s Guard way too easily and conveniently to get a piece of information out of DiFranco.
I didn’t really buy Toby Kebbell’s Silas – at least his scenes in the flashbacks – he just kind of looks like Tommy Wiseau with that black wig and wasn’t as intimidating as he should have been.
(The below picture is the only one I could find of his character and yes, he does have a hat on, but you can still see those long locks peeking out )
I also found the scene with Erin and Silas just staring at each other with Voice-Over dialogue happening between the two to be strange and feel out of place. It almost made it seem like they were communicating telepathically which felt really off.
The daughter’s whole story about Erin being high and taking her out “camping” in the middle of the woods when she was little really just seems like filler and didn’t add a lot to the story for me and it took a long time to get to Erin’s revelation of – I’m not good.
The movie has been showing us that Erin isn’t the “Mother of the Year” for the entire runtime – we didn’t need to be told it as well.
I didn’t really like that Shelby (Erin’s daughter) turns out to be Chris’ kid. That just felt too convenient and we have seen that before.
*SPOILERS ARE FINISHED*
SEE IT! So far, this and The Standoff at Sparrow Creek are my two favorite films of 2019. Check it out if you loved True Detective season 1 or season 3, or are just in the mood for a dark crime-thriller. Very well shot, acted and written, this is a really great film.
Destroyer is now available to rent and can be found on Hulu as well! Check it out today!
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