Karyn Kusama‘s Destroyer (2018) is a sun-scorched, store damaged, furious street rant on the ways we destroy others, but more on the ways we let ourselves be destroyed.
Nicole Kidman‘s iconic beauty is seen wrecked by wrath, grief, and guilt, as she embodies the almost out-of-bodied detective Erin Bell, hunting down the man who she believes ended her living days. Her hollow glare serves as an extraordinarily well executed hook – each time we look at Erin’s face, we compare it to our mental image of Kidman. And the emotional mayhem done locks us in. We want to know what happened to her.
The nemesis is a man who shows up early on, and then in flashback, his name is Silas (Toby Kebbell, nailing it), Erin was an undercover cop in his ragtag LA crew of part-time bank robbers, and full-time junkies. She had a partner, turned lover (a mature, heartfelt performance by Sebastian Stan), and we see that this man is now gone. What is left is an estranged daughter, an ex that means well, but is no match for Erin, and three links to Silas: a dying man, a hiding man, and an enslaved woman (power to Tatiana Maslany). All of them Silas’s accomplices and inevitably, his collateral damage.
Silas is the demon figure, mindfucker extraordinaire, a dull-minded yet vain amateur psychologist of the gutter. Just like any Charlie Manson, his power depends not so much on high intellect, which is more on the pragmatic, utilitarian side – but on constant sadism, a never-ending stream of pleasure-punishment. Trauma bonds never fail, and Silas’s specialty has been finding the dirty in people, then taunting them to live it to the hilt.
When the film starts, Erin gets sent his new bait. They always return to the scenes of their crimes, the killers. And that’s what Erin really is – a breathing crime scene, solving her own murder, motive by motive, clue by clue, dollar by dollar. When the film ends, she’s staring at the sky above, content to go wherever it takes her.
Dirty secret revealed, and repented, the hunger that all those years ago she allowed to trump love – Erin finally delivers execution, swift and detached. As it turns out, her monster in the labyrinth was just a garden variety psychopath. An immature, amoral fool who wanted to play.
Destroyer perhaps lacks a certain coherence, a solidity of structure, a smooth take. But then, so does life.
Author: ©Milana Vujkov