By John H. Foote
Nicole Kidman looks rancid, moldy as the tough detective in Destroyer. Never before has the actress allowed herself to look so rough for a film, it is as though she is rotting from the inside out, the corruption attached to her very soul. Her skin is sallow, blotchy, her teeth yellow and dark, she is skinny, sinewy, her eyes dead, bloodshot filled with self-loathing. She is lost and knows it, living with the past, a past she cannot let go of or escape.
It is a bold impressive performance absolutely free of vanity as she disappears under the skin of her character to go as far into a role as she ever has, and she has been mighty good before. Kidman has shone in films such as To Die For (1996), Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Moulin Rouge! (2001), The Others (2001), The Hours (2002) for which she won the Academy Award, Cold Mountain (2003), Birth (2004), Fur (2006), The Paperboy (2012) and most recently in The Beguiled (2017), but nothing will prepare you for what she does here. It is though Kidman ceased to exist and this character has taken over her body.
When she discovers a vicious killer is back in business, she tracks down a group of criminals she knew while undercover, hoping they can lead her to them. Her superiors know she is a drunk and drug addict, her daughter hates her, her ex-lover does not understand her, her partner worries for her, and the criminals she tracks down fear her. When she goes to visit a wealthy lawyer protecting a crook, it turns ugly fast with Kidman on the ground writhing in pain, vomiting, but she quickly turns it around and beats the bodyguard and the lawyer, displaying extraordinary tenacity.
When she figures out what the criminals are up too, she arms herself with an automatic rifle, storms into the bank and starts firing. It is astonishing to see Kidman doing this because it is unlike anything she has ever done before and yet she looks right at home.
Surrounded by fine character actors, Tatiana Maslany shines as a wealthy girl tied up with a gang unable to get out, and realizing its long past time to do anything about it. Maslany is a hugely gifted actress who I suspect we will see Oscar night one night. Bradley Whitford is superb as a sleazy, smug lawyer who works with criminals and is proud of it.
As good as they are, the film belongs to Kidman who could and should be heard from come Oscar time. The film has some self-indulgent moments, slow motion sequences that do not need to be so, but overall it is a first rate entertainment, however dark and nasty. These are not the sort of people you want to spend much time with, but damn, you cannot take your eyes off Kidman.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.