DESTROYER – a Kidman Revelation

If arty slow-burn revenge noir films are your jam then DESTROYER is for you. Nicole Kidman transforms from screen siren to an angry Charles Bronson/ Clint Eastwood type cop hellbent on putting closure to a hellish part of her history that destroyed her. She pairs with Karyn Kusama and together this female duo give us a dark gritty thriller that demands a viewing – mainly just to see a completely new Kidman giving it her all.

DESTROYER is out now from Madman Films. It is rated MA15+ and runs for 123mins.

Destroyer Nicole Kidman image
Nicole Kidman



When a fresh case exposes history from a former investigation, LAPD detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) is forced to face her demons, in this genre-defining work from Karyn Kusama (Æon Flux).

As a young detective, Erin and her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan) were placed undercover in the California desert to infiltrate a notorious criminal gang, controlled by their dangerously unstable leader Silas (Toby Kebbell), but the operation ends in tragedy. Years later, struggling to maintain a relationship with her daughter and still haunted by her past, she embarks on a mission for redemption and closure when it appears Silas has re-emerged. 

Destroyer Nicole Kidman and Tatiana Maslany image
Nicole Kidman and Tatiana Maslany


DESTROYER won’t be for everyone, it is a slow build film combining two timelines that slow peels back the layers as the film progresses. It is not a fast food film where you can sit back and listen to witty one liners before Kidman shoots someone. It is a nuanced revenge film that is also a crime noir journey. The level of nuance and emotion in this film is intense, you can literally smell Kidman’s character hasn’t showered in days, you understand her psyche and you know her entire life was destroyed by one horrific event. You have an idea what it is but you have to work for it, you have to wait until the history is revealed.

DESTROYER director Karyn Kusama started way back in the day with Michelle Rodriguez film GIRLFIGHT in 2000 and while an Indie it sparked interest and some critical applause. Then she made the visual ÆON FLUX with Charlize, it looked good but it didn’t do too well. 10 years passed with some relative quiet time – I am totally ignoring her JENNIFER’S BODY with Megan Fox – horrendous haha. In 2015 she burst back on to the screen with THE INVITATION – a psychological mind fuck I need to watch again! But you haven’t missed her too much recently – she has directed episodes of CHICAGO FIRE, THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE and BILLIONS.

DESTROYER is eons ahead of her previous work, a caterpillar has blossomed into a powerhouse director with Scorsese wings.

Destroyer Nicole Kidman and Sebastian Stan image
Nicole Kidman and Sebastian Stan



I used to hate Nicole Kidman with a passion – I loved her early work in DEAD CALM (one of the best thrillers of all time), then loved her early commercial work in DAYS OF THUNDER, FAR AND AWAY, TO DIE FOR, PRACTICAL MAGIC and EYES WIDE SHUT. But then for me it was Kidman saturation – it was too much. I absorbed some personal gossip on her and I couldn’t stand her. It was during this time she became a Hollywood darling and everyone loved her, made me dislike her more.


Hollywood turned on her around the time she made AUSTRALIA with Baz, she kept on trying desperately to do the big budget commercial Oscar styled films and the world kept dumping on her. It was at this stage I saw her in a new light and remembered why I liked her in the early days. I started seeing her as characters again and not as the Kidman Royalty of Hollywood.


She started making some better film choices and instead of taking (or more likely being offered) the HUGE Hollywood powerhouse films she started honing her skills, getting back to her roots and acting again for the passion of it. Roles in STOKER, STRANGERLAND, THE BEGUILED, THE PAPERBOY and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER turned my thoughts on her back on their head.

She is now, again, one of my favourite actors, and I love seeing everything she does. She is acting as Nicole Kidman again, not as Hollywood’s Nicole Cruise Kidman. Bravo to her! And holy shit she goes to a whole new level in DESTROYER – if we ignore the wig she is bloody brilliant – she is channeling Bronson and Eastwood, but her character doesn’t give a shit about herself she is so far ruined, if she dumped heaps of acid she could be Nicholas Cage in MANDY but she is only depressed and an alcoholic and also, still surprisingly, a good cop.

Destroyer Nicole Kidman and Kenley Smyth image
Nicole Kidman and Kenley Smyth


The other standout in the film is Sebastian Stan – mainly because he is so bloody gorgeous but the chemistry between the two works really well and you buy Kidman’s state of mind based on that chemistry. And special mention to Bradley Whitford’s character – he rocks the screen and I miss him, and THE WEST WING, immensely.


Go and see DESTROYER for a powerhouse direction from Karyn Kusama and to see Nicole Kidman’s 36yrs of acting skills come together to blow the screen away. This won’t make squillions being so indie but it demands a viewing for serious movie lovers.


Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.