Nicole Kidman Is a Cop Seeking Redemption in Gritty ‘Destroyer’

Taking a cue from the likes of Charlize Theron and Christian Bale, Nicole Kidman physically transforms herself for her latest film, crime drama “Destroyer.” When we first meet Los Angeles homicide detective Erin Bell (Kidman), we see a woman who has aged beyond her years. Stumbling her way around a murder scene, it becomes clear that Erin’s hardened appearance comes from an addiction to alcohol and who knows what else. But looks can be deceiving, as a quick inspection of the body is all she needs to figures out the killer. Going off a mark on the corpse, she ties the crime to loathsome crime lord Silas (Toby Kebbell), or so the viewer is led to believe. Niow, it’s just a matter of tracking Silas down.

Flashbacks to 16 years earlier show a much healthier-looking Erin as she is about to embark on an undercover assignment alongside handsome FBI agent Chris (an impeccable Sebastian Stan). From their first meeting, the chemistry between the two is palpable, which makes it easier for them to masquerade as a real-life couple as they infiltrate Silas’ gang of bank robbers. However, this passion proves to be a double-edged sword, as their dream of their living a happy life together leads to their making some questionable decisions, to say the least.

A big part of Erin’s path to redemption involves her making things right with her teen daughter, Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn). This is difficult because Shelby is resentful towards Erin for mostly obvious reasons, and she has taken up with a stereotypical loser boyfriend. To show her commitment to “saving” her girl, we see Erin bribing the guy with cash, a solution that seems akin to slapping a Band-Aid on a festering wound. Overall, this storyline, which should be the emotional core of the film, doesn’t dig deep enough.

Kidman is no stranger to roles that require her to “glam down” (see “The Hours”), but here she is truly something else, as director Karyn Kusama has her getting down and dirty as she interrogates a series of lowlives in her quest to find Silas. In one of the more appalling scenes, Erin gives a hand job to a dying man (James Jordan) in exchange for a lead.

As great as Kidman is, the screenplay for “Destroyer” comes up short. The main issue is its lack of originality, as the whole cop seeking redemption storyline feels like something we’ve already seen countless times. It would be a completely forgettable film if it were not for certain strong performances, not only from Kidman and Stan, but also from Tatiana Maslany and Bradley Whitford as two of the aforementioned lowlives.

Destroyer” opens Dec. 25 in Los Angeles and New York with a national rollout to follow.