Guest Blog: Destroyer - Nicole Kidman gets the dirt of L.A’s underworld under her fingernails
Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) began in the force as a hungry young mutt, undercover and unafraid. 16 years later, she limps onto the crime scene like an injured stray. There, face down in the unrelenting L.A heat is an unwanted reminder of her past. A John Doe, no ID, no idea. The only clue is a tattoo on the back of his neck, the same as the one on the back of Erin’s.
Her past never left her, and this unidentified body doesn’t reopen a wound but rub salt in one thatthat which never healed. Her colleagues are embarrassed by her shabby appearance, but director Karyn Kusama revels in it. The camera lingers on the lines time has drawn on her face and the rawness of her sleep deprived eyes. What happened all that time ago has clearly haunted her, and this. The case isn’t about her duty as a cop, it’s about closure.
All of Destroyer revels in the ugly. The lights of L.A.’s skyline are forever in the distance, as Erin chases old faces through back alleys and run-down streets. It’s a world full of toxic relationships, cruel people and blurred morality played out under harsh sun in an arid Los Angeles.
There’s no doubt that the gritty detective trope -, fuelled by whiskey and revenge to break the rules -, has been done before. It’s a role we’d normally see played by a man, in a genre dominated by male directors. Nicole Kidman’s performance is unflinching, unreserved and utterly believable. Kusama’s direction gives her ample time and space to embody her character, shooting artfully with enough reserve to ground the film in reality. There’s no comic relief, no moments of freedom or release.
There’s a dedication to telling the story here that makes Destroyer both admirable and tough to watch.