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Destroyer

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Destroyer Movie Poster Image
Nicole Kidman is great in dark, violent crime drama.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 123 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Characters are motivated primarily by revenge, although the main character does show an inclination toward sacrifice so that others can prevail.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although Erin Bell is a fascinating, fully rounded character, she's far from a role model. She's reckless, bent on revenge.

Violence

Dead bodies. Guns and shooting. Characters are shot and killed. Dangerous Russian roulette-style gun play. Main character is beaten up by bodyguards; she hits one of them back with a blunt object. Bloody wounds, face. Broken teeth. Bruises. Car crash. Bank robbery. Yelling, fighting, stomping.

Sex

Main character uses her hand to sexually stimulate a man. Graphic sex talk. Kissing between teens/young people. Main character kisses someone; he touches her crotch.

Language

Uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "c--t," "d--k," "bitch," "ass," "goddamn," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation). Middle-finger gesture.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink heavily in a bar. Cocaine snorting, smoking. Underage teen in bar. Minor character appears to be a drug addict.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Destroyer is a crime drama starring Nicole Kidman as a former undercover police detective whose past comes back to haunt her. It's very smart and intricately designed, but it's also very dark and rooted in revenge, with adult themes and no clear takeaways. Violence is strong, with guns and shooting, dead bodies, fighting/beating, bloody wounds, car crashes, a violent bank robbery, and a dangerous Russian roulette-style gun game. There's also fairly graphic sexual material (the main female sexually stimulates a man with her hand), as well as kissing and touching. Language includes uses of "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "a--hole," "bitch," and more. Characters drink heavily, smoking is shown, and a supporting character is a drug addict (cocaine). An underage teen is found in a bar.

User Reviews

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What's the story?

In DESTROYER, bedraggled LAPD detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) arrives on the scene of a murder and notices a familiar clue: bills from a bank robbery that are stained with pink dye. She goes looking for a man named Silas (Toby Kebbell), a bank robber and possible murderer. Viewers learn through flashbacks that, almost two decades ago, Erin worked undercover alongside a partner, Chris (Sebastian Stan), infiltrating Silas' mob. She visits the group's former members, one by one, looking for clues, but progress is slow, and her course is dangerous. Meanwhile, her 16-year-old daughter (Jade Pettyjohn) has been acting up, spending time with lowlife boys; though Erin wants to help, her parenting skills aren't exactly polished. Ultimately, Erin realizes that her entire existence hinges on a single act of revenge.

Is it any good?

Driven by Kidman's forceful, demolishing performance and a deliriously complex, snaky screenplay, this mature, intricately designed crime drama is more memorable and more haunting than most. Directed by Karyn Kusama and co-written by her husband, Phil Hay, and his writing partner, Matt Manfredi (they all made the excellent thriller The Invitation), Destroyer is an awards-season showcase for Kidman's talents. She ages from the glow of youth to a shambling wreck, her face hardened, her narrow eyes reflecting agony and suspicion. It's an astonishing piece of work -- and, refreshingly, it's not all the film has to offer. Kidman is supported by, and part of, an equally impressive movie.

Destroyer has plenty of secrets, and it'd be a shame to give any of them away, but it's safe to expect many moments of gnashing suspense and gripping bittersweet. The movie's use of light and shadow turns Los Angeles into a modern world of film noir, from desolate, graffiti-tagged slabs of buildings to a slash of diagonal shadow under the bridge where Erin first appears. The intense sound design grabs everyday noises and twists them into a cacophony. And when it's not moving the plot forward and/or generating suspense and mystery, the movie zeroes in on Erin's character, her painful attempts to connect with her daughter, and the heartbreaking story of how she simply lost everything. Destroyer is a dark film, and it's not for casual viewing, but it is unforgettable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Destroyer's violence. How intense is it? How did it affect you? Does it seem appropriate for this story? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How is sex portrayed? What values are imparted?

  • How are drinking and drugs portrayed? Are they glamorized in any way? Are there realistic consequences?

  • What's the appeal of stories about revenge? Is it satisfying? Can it ever be a good thing? In what ways can it be bad?

  • Is Erin Bell a strong female character? Is she a role model? How can these two things be similar? How can they be different?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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