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Destroyer transforms Kidman into a dark, gaunt avenger who’s no angel

Destroyer transforms Kidman into a dark, gaunt avenger who’s no angel
Entertainment
Starring Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany. Directed by Karyn Kusama. Opens Friday at Cineplex Varsity. 120 minutes. STC

Boundless remorse and an unslakable thirst for vengeance.

These are the two primal forces driving police officer Erin Bell, twin engines that have pared her body (and soul) to the bare minimum, leaving her a dessicated shell of a woman. It is an astonishing and haunting performance by Nicole Kidman that demonstrates she is the peak of her skills as an actor.

It is a performance that transforms Destroyer into a searing and compelling film-noir masterpiece. Kidman’s performance and the film itself will leave your mouth dry and make your bones ache. It may even haunt your dreams for a time.

The film opens with Bell (a nearly unrecognizable Kidman, as lean and mangy as a stray dog) attending a crime scene where the other officers regard her and draw back with an almost instinctual fear and loathing. The victim’s body and a subsequent clue — a stained $100 bill — take Bell back to a tragic episode from her past while reigniting a lust for retribution against an old adversary that has dominated her life since.

With little regard for the rules, Bell sets out on a relentless campaign to track down those who can bring her face to face with Silas (Toby Kebbell), a nearly messianic bank robber who stole everything from her when a heist went bad so many years earlier, everything except a daughter she has struggled to raise.

Director Karyn Kusama, working with a screenplay from spouse Phil Hay and partner Matt Manfredi, uses dusty landscapes to create a mood of purgatorial anguish and perpetual rage. Flashbacks eventually bring two storylines together with a revelation of shattering consequence that not even the cathartic power of revenge can amend.

Kusama’s storytelling style isn’t always straightforward, challenging the audience to pay careful attention as the past and present trundle towards a collision course.

Nicole Kidman in Destroyer.  (AP)

There’s some great supporting performances, including Kebbell as the charismatic villain and Tatiana Maslany as one of his acolytes. But it is Kidman who commands the screen throughout, driving this dark tale to a conclusion that feels satisfying even as it demonstrates there is no comfort or redemption to be found in settling old scores and no escape from the enduring sorrow of an ill-conceived decision.
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