Review: Ghoulish Kidman drags down 'Destroyer'

Nicole Kidman acts with a capital A in twisty police drama with little payoff

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
Nicole Kidman in "Destroyer."

Nicole Kidman not only looks like a ghost in "Destroyer," she looks like a double ghost: a ghost who was run over by a truck, left by the side of the road, and run over again a few days later.

If she walked into a bar, everyone would pay their tabs and head for the exit, doing their best not to make eye contact with the ghoulish hellmonster who just walked in the door. 

As impressive as it is to turn Kidman into a walking corpse, it also turns "Destroyer" into a cinematic freak show. It's the kind of big, anti-glamour role that screams "acting!" and usually leads to award season windfalls (see Charlize Theron in "Monster"), but "Destroyer" pushes too far, and winds up veering into parody. If there was a send-up of prestige pictures titled "Oscar Movie," Kidman's go-for-broke performance would be ripe for the mocking. 

It doesn't help, at all, that "Destroyer" is a gritty, twisty drama with a timeline that cheats its own concept; you don't realize the parameters of the movie you're watching until the rug is pulled out from underneath its ending. There's a thin line between gotcha and ripoff, and "Destroyer" falls on the wrong side of the gorge. 

Kidman plays Erin Bell, a detective who gets in way too deep on an assignment tracking a group of bank robbers in the Southern California desert. She winds up falling hard for her partner, Chris (Sebastian Stan), and through tragedy and hard living, she turns into the Crypt Keeper's BFF. 

Director Karyn Kusama ("Jennifer's Body") stages a you-are-there robbery scene that thrillingly avoids typical heist movie clichés, but elsewhere she can't pull "Destroyer" out of the shadow of its albatross lead performance. (Also worthy of note is Bradley Whitford, who is Razzie-worthy ("elbow!") in a small role.) Kidman is one of our great screen actresses, but here she destroys everything in her path.



Rated R for language throughout, violence, some sexual content and brief drug use   

Running time: 123 minutes