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By midlandsmovies, May 20 2019 08:36PM



Destroyer (2019) Dir. Karyn Kusama


As a huge fan of Kusama’s The Invitation, my expectations were high for her new crime thriller Destroyer which stars Nicole Kidman as an undercover cop taking out a gang years after she began working on the case.


Kidman plays Erin Bell in a role that’s as good as any she has delivered in the past. Dishevelled, weary and, what looks like, malnourished at times, the glamorous Kidman we've known from Hollywood is nowhere to be seen as she embodies a hard-nosed detective both physically and mentally.


Her character Bell is brought back to a case from her past by the appearance of a dye-soaked $100 bill from a botched robbery she was involved in whilst undercover with her partner Chris (Sebastian Stan). The bill and the death of a man suggests that the gang’s leader Silas (Toby Kebbell) may have returned, so she begins to track down remaining gang members in order to find him.


The film’s narrative jumps from the present investigation back to the past when Erin and Chris were deep undercover. Questioning whether they should in fact become further involved with the crime, Erin and Chris begin a romantic liaison that has serious repercussions later on. Kidman is a tour-de-force here managing to perfectly play her naïve and unknowing cop from the past as well as embodying the rugged and vengeful vigilante version of herself in the present.


Harsh scenes of threats, sexual favours, violence and blackmail all add up to a world of horrid crime and one Erin is trying to protect her wayward daughter from. As each member leads her to the next, she ends up in a firecracker of a scene with lawyer turned money launderer Dennis DeFranco who is played fantastically by a sleazy Bradley Whitford. His spiteful confidence clashes with Bell but he underestimates both her resourcefulness and her lust for revenge.


The whole cast are fantastic but it’s Kidman’s great portrayal of a disparaged and down-and-out cop that has you rooting for her even when she’s aggressively settling scores.


And Kusama’s film manages to mix sadistic and cruel circumstances with intense scenes of emotional vulnerability – Kidman’s absent mother reigns in her most brutal tendencies when dealing with her daughter and her big-headed boyfriend – leading to an outstanding balance of tones and themes.


Narratively, as our protagonist begins to go off the rails, we never once get confused as to her motivations and Kidman says as much with a dismissive gesture and roll of the eyes as she does when delivering verbal take-downs of the city’s villainous crew.


With a tremendous cast throughout and first-rate scenes exploring the consequences of violence, Destroyer is an exceptional thriller from start to finish. But more importantly, it will destroy all preconceptions you had of Kidman as she delivers a superbly astonishing turn in the type of repellent role I’d love to see more of.


★★★★


Michael Sales



By midlandsmovies, May 27 2016 09:55AM

The Trust (2016) Dir. Alex Brewer & Ben Brewer


Nicolas Cage? What happened man? The actor has an Oscar and a trilogy of the best action films of the 90s (The Rock, Face/Off, Con Air – made back to back no less) but is now a straight to video star alongside such luminaries as Steven Seagal. That said, the odd gem shines through and The Trust is (close to being) one.


My love of the fun Disney National Treasure films has been mentioned before (see this article of best Nic Cage films) yet unfortunately some impressive indie fair like Joe and a supporting role in Kick Ass gave way to such “classics” like the The Dying of the Light (2014), The Runner (2015) and Pay the Ghost (2015) – most have barely heard let alone seen these stinkers.


With a rollercoaster of good-to-bad films, you never know what you’re going to get with Cage but The Trust however sits in the mostly good pile rather than the god-awful ones he’s currently known for.


This crime film sees Cage as Lieutenant Jim Stone (sounds like a first draft script name) whose moustachioed visage harkens back to Kick Ass’ Damon Macready (aka Big Daddy) and who works with Elijah Wood’s Sergeant David Waters in Las Vegas’ Police Evidence department. After spotting clues that a drug dealer was bailed on $200k cash, Cage goes undercover to find out how they made their loot. Roping in a reluctant Wood, the twosome get hold of blueprints and discover a large safe at a gang’s hideout and use money gained from a corrupt cop (played well by a creepy Ethan Suplee of My Name Is Earl) to buy equipment to break in.


The film has a slight CSI “television” vibe with nothing being particularly cinematic but it adds to the realism of a simple narrative. I’ve enjoyed Wood’s quirky film choices post-LOTR (Maniac, Sin City, Eternal Sunshine) and he plays a put-upon dupe quite well and repeats the same performance here. No bad thing. Cage is all over the place (pretty standard) but the dynamic between the two is solid, with the grizzled down-and-out Cage contrasting nicely with Wood’s more innocent stoner Sergeant.


After breaking in, their fractured relationship takes a turn for the worse as an unexpected woman becomes an unwanted hostage and the previous jovial tone of the movie switches to a more serious and bloody drama. This shift may be jarring for some but I was glad it didn’t turn into an Ocean’s 11. Taking a few bold risks in the film’s short (but appropriate) 93 minutes, the filmmakers have taken some regular genre tropes and mixed them up. Not always satisfyingly but a worthy attempt to avoid pigeon-holing.


In conclusion, the two leads are immensely watchable with good chemistry but this film of two halves (lightweight trendiness then deadly serious) may not be to everyone’s tastes. A crime caper that admirably gambles on a few eccentric creative choices, The Trust is a harmless drama that shows Cage-fans glimpses of his former skills, whilst others may find it bland and flavourless. Trust me, I’m hoping it’s the former for Nic’s sake.


6/10 Midlands Movies Mike

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