‘Destroyer’ a slow-burning yet entertaining time at the movies

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Women’s March: ‘Destroyer’

FilmScene — now playing

Nicole Kidman in ‘Destroyer,’ part of FilmScene’s Women’s March. — video still

The Invitation, directed by Karyn Kusama, was one of the best thriller movies I’d seen in a very long time. After I was done watching it, I immediately ordered the Blu-Ray online. It offered everything I wanted in a movie: tons of tension, characters you care about and a story that is ridiculously entertaining.

When I found out that the team behind The Invitation were returning with Destroyer, I made it a must-see movie.

Destroyer centers around detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman), who as a young cop went undercover to infiltrate a gang. This leads to something so tragic that it still haunts her many years later. When she finds out that the same gang leader has recently resurfaced, she goes on a personal mission to take him down and finally find peace.

I will say that this movie was quite interesting for the first half. You’re thrown into Erin’s life and you flashback to times in the past when she was going undercover with Chris (Sebastian Stan). Their romantic involvement plays a huge part of this movie. But the film covers a lot more ground in the first half than in the second, where it feels like it kind of runs out of story to tell.

Directory Karyn Kusama kicked off her directing career with 2000’s ‘Girlfight.’ ‘Destroyer’ is her fifth feature film. — video still

The big downfall of this movie is that the flashback moments are quite jarring and happen way too frequently. I understand that they were necessary to tell the story, but I don’t think they were utilized properly.

Kidman and Stan were the shining stars in this movie. I bought into their dynamic fully and believe they each gave one of their finest performances to date. The story really favors these two and I really appreciated that. The other standout for me was Toby Kebbell as gang leader Silas. He has such an intensity to him and ended up making for quite the scary villain.

The screenplay was written by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay, that same guys behind The Invitation. You can definitely tell that these guys have a preference for character pieces and a movie that really takes it’s time. This becomes a fault in this movie, though — while the run time was only a couple minutes over two hours, it felt like eternity. I almost never do this, but throughout the film I was actually thinking of how incredibly long it was. At about the midway point, the movie just halts and doesn’t go anywhere. I think it has some great characters, but the story surrounding them felt too thin and overstretched.

I was pretty impressed once again by Kusama’s direction, but I do think this was pretty shaky compared to The Invitation. She definitely knows how to get great performances out her actors, and she did the best she could with the material she was given. I wish she would’ve trimmed this back about 15-20 minutes. That would have helped so much with the pacing of the movie and given it a better flow.

Karyn Kusama’s ‘Destroyer’ is now playing at FilmScene. — video still

A big strength of the film is the cinematography by Julie Kirkwood (The Blackcoat’s Daughter). One of the things that really popped is how visceral the action scenes where. All of the action was so raw and brutal, and much of that was because of Kirkwood’s amazing work behind the camera.

Surprisingly I thought the musical score, composed by Theodore Shapiro (A Simple Favor), was quite weak. There was almost nothing memorable; it felt like he used basic and rehased music cues that we’ve heard time and time again. One that comes to mind is the constantly repeating bass thump during action sequences. This happens all the time in movies that have action in them: All of the music drops except for the bass sound, and it just pulsates; while cool the first couple of times I heard the style used, it’s now become tiresome.

Would I recommend this movie? Absolutely. But is it a homerun? Far from it. There are many great moments throughout Destroyer that I will not forget some them for quite some time, though. All the cast and crew really did their best to tell the story, and I think they did an admirable job.

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