ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No.31: Destroyer

Year: 2018

Runtime: 121 Minutes

Director: Karyn Kusama

Writer: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi

Stars: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan

Special Guest Writer: Emily Murray

Earlier this year gritty thriller “Destroyer” (2019) stormed onto the big screen, with all of its rage, vengeance and gusto. Surprisingly it failed to blow up, instead crashing and burning at the box office making only $5.5 million in comparison to its $9 million budget. We can only really guess at what exactly caused the film to flop, but poor distribution and weak marketing certainly played their roles.

Despite gunning for those golden gongs, especially with Nicole Kidman’s central phenomenal transformative performance, it received barely any attention on the awards circuit, although it has to be said organisations like The Academy have never been known for their good taste in cinema.

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It is always wretched to see a film underperform, but with “Destroyer” the case is even more sorrowful as director Karyn Kusama’s outstanding drama is one of this year’s best films, and it really did deserve better. Gruelling, uncompromising and relentlessly gripping, from start to end “Destroyer” is a visceral experience that never lets you go.

What She Said:

“[Kidman’s] collaboration with Karyn Kusama, who directed this film, is another example of her willingness to back a filmmaker still to peak.”

Sandra Hall, Sydney Morning Herald

Twitter: @SandraHFilm

I vividly remember trembling as the credits rolled in an empty cinema during the film’s opening weekend (even in Manchester the screenings were sparse), shaken by Kusama’s grim and challenging drama.

In a role unlike any she has ever taken on before, Kidman stars as LAPD detective Erin Bell, a former undercover cop who decides to have vengeance on a gang several years after the case she was working on was blown. We follow an unrecognisable Kidman down the hidden dirty alleyways and long never-ending roads of LA, squinting as cinematographer Julie Kirkwood showcases the city’s dry heat using vibrancy and brightness on the big screen.

A woman on the hunt, Kidman’s Bell flip-flops between being a hungry animal and an insomniac zombie as she struggles to address the traumas of both her past and present. Bell is a classic corrupt cop who you just can’t help want to back, and it is thrilling seeing her kicking down doors, firing guns left, right and centre, and delivering that sweet, sweet justice to the rats of LA.

What She Said:

“Interesting, intriguing and different, Destroyer has mystery, action and incredible acting.”

Allison Rose, FlickDirect

Twitter: @moviegirlali

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Kusama knows how to shoot action sequences and ensures you won’t want to mess around with the bad-ass Bell, but she equally knows how to handle the more tender moments. Jade Pettyjohn is great as Bell’s estranged daughter Shelby, and she really helps make Kidman’s character more rounded and relatable.

What She Said:

“As set-ups go, it’s a familiar one, but it’s always a pleasure to watch Kusama shape genre to her own ends as she did in Girlfight.”

Kathy Fennessy, Seattle Film Blog
Twitter: @kcfennessy

While there is some comedic, romantic and emotional relief, this film is called “Destroyer” giving us clues as to how hard going the watch is going to be. Reading this you may think you have seen this film before: a corrupt cop getting their revenge without a care for the collateral damage. Even the estranged child makes an appearance.

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And yes, while “Destroyer” may remind you of films like “Heat” and “Bad Lieutenant”, it is refreshing and original, mainly thanks to Kusama’s masterful and unique direction, and Kidman’s outstanding performance. While not an easy watch, you really must take a deep dive into Bell’s sprawling psyche and go on an unforgettable and cacophonous journey with Kusama’s thrilling “Destroyer”.

The Extra Bits:

Where to Watch:

Amazon: Rent & Buy

iTunes: Rent & Buy

Google Play: Rent & Buy

 

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