I don’t know if Nicole Kidman would describe herself as a method actor, but her commitment to a role is nothing less than 100%. Destroyer is just the latest example, made notable by her physical transformation. The parched skin and hollow eyes that hide her natural beauty are just an external clue to the troubled person inside. The screenplay, by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, parcels out clues to her backstory in its own sweet time, which I found more frustrating than enlightening.
The discovery of a dead body leads LAPD officer Kidman to the (correct) conclusion that a heartless criminal she sent to prison years ago is back on the streets. Her strange behavior and solitary ways isolate her from her colleagues, so she is basically on her own as she pursues this disturbing case. (They also remember, all too well, the depths to which she sank to capture the ultra-sleazy Toby Kebbell.)
Kidman makes almost any film worth watching, and talented director Karyn Kusama pulls no punches in depicting the often-distasteful deeds her leading character has indulged in. But the writers seem to think there is something terribly important about all of this, and that imbues the movie with a pretentious attitude. There’s already enough content to justify calling the film “unappealing.” The last thing it needs is an air of self-importance.
The casting is unusually good, with juicy parts for Sebastian Stan, Tatiana Maslany, Scoot McNairy, and an especially surprising Bradley Whitfield. But that’s the only positive aspect of Destroyer I can point out. Apart from that, it’s a psychological take on a cops-and-robbers story that I could have done without.