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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Destroyer | Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Bradley Whitford, Tatiana Maslany, Toby Kebbell, Jade Pettyjohn | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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Destroyer | Nicole Kidman, Sebastian Stan, Bradley Whitford, Tatiana Maslany, Toby Kebbell, Jade Pettyjohn | Review

I’m not one to use text expressions, but OMG!

You think you know an actor’s repertoire from years in the biz, from their earliest appearance to their latest portrayal, and then bam! They deliver an astonishing performance, unbelievably raw and compelling AND they make you believe it, crawling into the character’s skin so expertly that your jaw gapes and you find yourself staring at a film rather than watching it; staring in absolute awe, as if discovering the actor for the first time. Yes, it’s that amazing.

Such is the performance rendered by Nicole Kidman as LAPD detective Erin Bell. Forget the translucent skin, Rapunzel-like golden tresses, and sparkling blue eyes. Bell is a bitter, rough-hewn, take-no-prisoners woman, hard drinking and hard on the eyes, wearing clothes that look as if she’d slept in them for weeks. Her teeth are stained and yellow, her hair just an afterthought, her lips perpetually chapped.

She’s a mess in her relationship with her teen aged daughter (Jade Pettyjohn) as well, and not particularly well-regarded by her co-workers on the force. No, Destroyer is not a happy film.

Bell wasn’t always this way, and a series of flashbacks that take place after a former partner (Sebastian Stan) is murdered tell us why. 17 years ago, the pair went undercover for the FBI, taking part in a bank robbery that went horribly wrong. Silas (Toby Kebbell) the kingpin of this gang, disappears.

Now Bell believes he is back and there’s a big, ugly score to settle. Events unfold in flashback and present day to reveal unsavory and covert secrets, with a shared culpability that does not exonerate Bell for her part in bad decisions, then and now.

Kidman does her best work inhabiting a character that is light years from any other, past or present. Yes, this is the same woman who portrays Aquaman’s mother in shimmering sequins! The only shiny thing here is the barrel of a gun; the only makeup is bruise-colored. The setting is unrelentingly grim, and Kidman’s Bell shows us how much she belongs in the middle of this moral swamp.

Strong performances by Tatiana Maslany, Bradley Whitford, Sebastian Stan, Toby Kebbell, and Jade Pettyjohn highlight Kidman’s own personal best acting achievement since…ever.

Director Karen Kusama (The Invitation) does not pull punches and neither do her actors. Destroyer’s central character may be a woman, but there are no concessions made here for delicate, feminine sensibilities. With a gritty script from Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (The Invitation) Kusama shines a light on the decidedly unglamorous lifestyle of both cat and mouse, the law and the villain, and the sometimes-blurred line between the two.

I’m not one to use text expressions, but Nicole Kidman in Destroyer - OMG!

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