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Laramie Movie Scope: Destroyer

Great performance inside of twisted whodunit plot

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 14, 2018 – Nicole Kidman (“Boy Erased”) gives an inspired gritty performance as a world weary detective solving a murder in this whodunit that leads us on a very twisted chase for clues through the cesspool of civilization.

Kidman plays Los Angeles Police Detective Erin Bell, who walks into a crime scene looking like death warmed over. The police at the scene of the murder tell her to butt out. After she takes a long look at the body, she starts to walk away, saying “What about if I know who did this?” They suddenly are interested in her, but she doesn't say another word. She just gives them the finger and walks away.

Bell seems to be on a mission to find the killer, seemingly an old foe called Silas (played by Toby Kebbell of “A Monster Calls”). We gradually learn that as an undercover agent she had once infiltrated a gang of bank robbers led by Silas. Something went terribly wrong during this assignment, resulting in the death of a fellow undercover agent, and her lover, Chris (Sebastian Stan of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier”).

Bell seems to be willing to break all the rules to find Silas and get revenge. She gradually tracks down all the old gang members, looking for clues as to Silas' whereabouts. She finds a crooked lawyer, who has been laundering money for Silas, and forces him to talk, getting beat up by a bodyguard in the process. Injured and in pain, she presses grimly on with her investigation.

Along the way, she is forced to deal with her delinquent teenage daughter, Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn of “Trial by Fire”) and her adult boyfriend, Jay (Beau Knapp of “Death Wish”) and her ex-husband, Ethan (Scoot McNairy of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”). As Bell wades deeper and deeper into the abyss of her own past, it becomes apparent that her hunt for Silas is about more than mere revenge.

The story bounces back and forth in time, revealing more and more about Bell's soul, as each new layer of truth is revealed. Bell's appearance changes dramatically over the 16 years in the story, from present day to flashbacks. This is partly due to great makeup work, headed by makeup designer Bill Corso (“Deadpool” and “Foxcatcher”) and partly due to Kidman's amazing performance.

We've all seen this kind of world-weary detective before, but it has always been played by a man, such as Al Pacino in “Insomnia,” but seldom has there been this many layers to a performance. The screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (“The Invitation”) has a very crooked timeline, but even though it is tricky, it all becomes clearer as it goes along. Director Karyn Kusama (“The Invitation”) has outdone herself here with an affecting, entertaining drama. This film is one of the year's best, it rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]