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Film / Destroyer (2018)

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Destroyer is a 2018 crime drama film directed by Karyn Kusama, starring Nicole Kidman as Erin Bell, a guilt-ridden LAPD detective forced to revisit an undercover assignment that still haunts her.

The film made its debut at the Telluride Film Festival in August 2018.

Nothing to do with the KISS album of the same name.

Destroyer provides examples of:

  • Addled Addict: Petra, who was attractive in flashbacks, has become this in the present day. Erin reserves a modicum of pity for her because of it.
  • All for Nothing: Chris dies trying to save a young bank teller, who Silas kills anyway.
  • Alliterative Name: Dennis DiFranco.
  • Amoral Attorney: DiFranco is not only a Smug Snake attorney helping out Silas, but he also mocks Erin for the death of Chris and an innocent bank teller.
  • Anti-Hero: Erin is a burned-out alcoholic, who has no problem with beating suspects to get information.
  • The Atoner: Arturo. He has spent the years since the robbery providing free legal advice to illegal immigrants. When Erin asks him if he thinks this will make up for his misdeeds, Arturo says that he cannot do enough to wash the sins from his soul, but that he will keep doing this until he dies. He may be the only person genuinely repentant for his role in the crime.
  • Badass Bystander: When Petra is attempting to stomp Erin to death in the ice cream parlour, one of the customers grabs her and pulls her off.
  • Bank Robbery: Two are shown: one in the past, and one in the present day.
  • Beauty Inversion:
    • The beautiful and stylish Nicole Kidman plays Erin, a burned-out shell of a woman who long ago stopped caring about her appearance. She wears an unflattering wig and make-up is used to make her skin look weathered.
    • In a similar vein, the pretty Tatiana Maslany plays the beaten-down, addicted criminal Petra.
  • Becoming the Mask: Erin, briefly, when she wants some of what she sees the criminals getting. See: My God, What Have I Done?.
  • "Begone" Bribe: Erin ends up offering to pay Jay 11,400 dollars to leave Shelby and never come back. He takes it.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Shelby, though it's clear it wasn't easy being raised by someone like Erin.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The bag of guns Erin confiscates from Taz. She uses one of them to murder Silas.
  • Concealment Equals Cover: Averted. During the bank robbery, a cop gets shot through the couch he was hiding behind.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Erin once worked an undercover operation in which she got her partner - the man she was in love with - killed. This seems to have had a huge impact on the person she is in the present day.
  • Defective Detective: Erin is an alcoholic with anger issues whose colleagues can't stand her.
  • Dies Wide Shut: Erin.
  • Dirty Cop: While undercover, Erin and Chris fully intended to let the gang rob a bank and then keep their cut. Even when that plan went to hell, Erin still stole between 300,000 and 500,000 dollars from the loot and kept it.
  • Downer Ending: See The Hero Dies.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: The ending of reveals that Erin arriving at the crime scene was in fact the final scene, not the first. Everything that followed has in fact been a flashback. The body is actually Silas and Erin is the one who shot him. Once More, with Clarity allows the viewer to assemble everything in the proper order.
  • Fan Disservice: Toby goads Erin into giving him a handjob in exchange for information.
  • Hellbent For Leather: Erin wears a battered leather jacket throughout the whole present section of the film.
  • The Hero Dies: Erin dies of her injuries at the end of the film.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: The movie is made of this.
  • Honor Thy Abuser: Erin is an extremely aggressive, violent person who abandoned her daughter Shelby. She still makes a point of saying that she loves Shelby and she was trying to get the money together for her.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: After trying to play nice with Amoral Attorney Dennis DiFranco, Erin loses her patience and starts beating him about the face with her pistol till he coughs up the info she wants.
  • Jerkass: Shelby's skeevy older boyfriend Jay, who has no qualms about dating an underage girl and taking her to bars, and who openly hates Erin (though the feeling is mutual).
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: During the fight in the ice cream parlour, Petra knocks Erin down and then kicks her multiple times while she is on the floor before being hauled off by a Badass Bystander. Petra is wearing heavy boots and cracks Erin's ribs and inflicts severe bruising. She also inflicts internal injuries that will ultimately cause Erin's death.
  • Lost Lenore: Erin thinks constantly about Chris, her former partner. Who died the day of their botched robbery, deciding at the last minute to reveal his identity when it's clear Silas is going to murder a young bank teller, and Erin's guilt about persuading him to go through with the robbery only fuels her grief.
  • Made of Iron: Averted. Erin takes a LOT of hits throughout the present-day action, but just keeps going. It's only after she's done what she had to do that the audience learns she's suffering serious physical consequences, and the movie ends with her being very strongly implied to have died as a result of her injuries.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Erin crosses the Despair Event Horizon when her actions get Chris killed.
  • Oh, Crap!: During the botched robbery, Silas threatens a frightened bank teller to not put a dye pack in the bag of money. As soon as he walks outside, the dye pack goes off, and he goes back inside... With Chris following, and a horrified Erin realizes when he doesn't return that he's been killed after revealing his cover.
  • Once More, with Clarity: The finding of the body, seemingly the event that sets off the plot, is actually one of the final scenes chronologically; the rest of the story is leading us to that moment. Additionally, Erin's behavior, which the other detectives assume is due to her being drunk, is actually a result of all the injuries she receives throughout the present-day story.
  • Pistol-Whipping: Erin uses her pistol to beat information out of DiFranco, and later uses it to subdue Petra, knocking out several of her teeth in the process.
  • Punk in the Trunk: After catching Petra in the ice cream parlour following the back robbery, Erin tosses her into the boot of her car and drives her off to interrogate her.
  • Russian Roulette: Silas challenges Arturo to a one-man game. Only after he survives and leaves the room do we learn he had a 50/50 chance of killing himself.
  • Sarcastic Confession: When Erin is pushed off the crime scene by the investigating officer, she says "What if I could tell you exactly who killed him?" before flipping him the bird. It is later revealed that the victim is Silas, and she is the one who killed him.
  • Sex for Services: A bedridden Toby demands certain acts of Erin in exchange for information.
  • Smug Snake: DiFranco, who taunts Erin about her sordid past and her doomed undercover operation. It's more than satisfying to see Erin beat him to a pulp.
  • So Happy Together: Before the job, Chris makes Erin promise that she's not going to leave him, they declare their love for each other, and then Chris gets killed on that job.
  • Undercover as Lovers: Erin and Chris, which develops into real love along the way.
  • Vigilante Execution: Silas was never brought to justice for Chris's murder, so Erin takes her own revenge.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: After being beaten up bu DiFranco's bodyguard, Erin throws up in the corridor (and across the bodyguard's shoes).
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Even though Toby gets a clear sign that Erin is an undercover cop after Chris confessed that he was one and she refuses to answer him, he chooses to hold her at gunpoint and give her ample time to disable him by crashing the car rather than shoot her and try to get away.
  • Worthless Treasure Twist: Not the final (or even the main) twist of the film, but when Erin Bell goes to collect the remaining bag of cash from the bank robbery, she discovers that a hidden dye pack had gone off and rendered most of the cash unusable.