CENTRED around Los Angeles Police Department detective Erin, “Destroyer” may not be the greatest thriller that ever came out of Hollywood, the birthplace of thrillers of every size, shape, colour and flavour. But inputs made to it by two women make it high-grade cinema for the right reasons.
The film’s structure segues seamlessly back and forth between young Erin full of enthusiasm about her work and contemporary Erin barely functioning after two decades of routine during which she has borne a daughter and drunk more alcohol than was good for her.
On a routine case, Erin discovers evidence that Silas (Toby Kebbell), a criminal whom she believed had disappeared early in her career, therefore presumably dead, is alive and well and back in LA after 15 years. Silas is a nasty piece of work. The film is about Erin’s efforts to build a case against him while also trying to protect her teenaged daughter Petra (Tatiana Maslany) from his pernicious influence.
Phil Hay ad Manfred Mancini wrote a workmanlike, agreeably complex screenplay for director Karyn Kusama’s first feature after a decade of TV series episodes. In a recent interview Kusama, whose early feature filmography lists stories about women dealing with difficult issues, spoke of her surprise when Nicole Kidman asked if she might play Erin.
It’s Kidman unlike anything we’ve seen from her, a virtuoso performance of a complex character in situations that in most thrillers would be played by a male actor. The glamorous Kidman of yore here plays a woman uncaring of her appearance, with a spotty complexion, a gravelly voice and a gritty vocabulary, competing on level terms in a man’s world. Watching her with all these changes is a rewarding experience.
At Palace Electric, Dendy, Hoyts and Belconnen