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Nicole Kidman Goes Dark For ‘Destroyer’

Director Karyn Kusama scores an indie win

Photo credit: Annapurna Pictures

Nicole Kidman stars as police detective Erin Bell in Karyn Kusama's "Destroyer."

Companion viewing

"Dead Calm" (1989)

"To Die For" (1995)

"Girlfight" (2000)

Actress Nicole Kidman is stirring Oscar talk with her performance in Karyn Kusama's "Destroyer," which opens Friday in San Diego.

When a glamorous star removes her make up to look plain or unattractive, it’s usually a surefire way to get critics to roll out terms such as “brave” and “fearless” and to get the Academy’s attention. But what makes Nicole Kidman’s performance in "Destroyer" effective has less to do with her outward appearance and more to do with the dark, ambiguous places she’s willing to take her character.

Kidman is almost unrecognizable when we meet her as the older Erin Bell, a police detective whose latest case leads her to reconnect with people from her past and an undercover assignment that went horribly wrong.

Director Karyn Kusama has a gift for drawing out strong performances from actresses. Her first film vividly introduced us to Michelle Rodriguez as a boxer in "Girlfight." Here she makes Kidman reach deep down to play Bell who struggles to come to terms with the bad decisions she’s made in her life. The film moves back and forth in time between her early days undercover when she hopes for a bright future and her present day where all sense of hope seems gone. Kidman endows Bell with a ferocious determination as well as an overwhelming sense of guilt and regret.

Kusama, who displays far more originality and grit in her indie features than in her more Hollywood fare (such as the failed "Aeon Flux") endows "Destroyer" with an intense and relentless drive as it follows Bell on her troubled emotional journey.

Actress Nicole Kidman is stirring Oscar talk with her performance in Karyn Kusama's "Destroyer," which opens Friday in San Diego.

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