Monday, January 14, 2019


99% of the time when I see a fim at a festival, I don't have anything to ask during the Q&A until days later, but I felt like I had a pretty good question at the end of this one, about whether all the baseball references were meant to add up to something. It seems like they do - there are ballgames on the radio in both the past and present before things go to hell, the most uplifting moment early on in the movie has Erin suddenly finding herself above Chavez Ravine, looking down at the lights, and Bradley Whitford's lawyer is trying his best to make practicing miserable for his son. It disappears later on, so I wondered if it was meant to be some sort of calming influence.

On second thought, that would be tough to ask about without it coming across as an annoying "explaining the movie to its director" thing, which always frustrates me. I suspect I'm just relatively attuned to baseball, and the characters liking it is a thing that helps me identify with them, which is especially important in a movie like this where I really want to feel closer to what seems like a generic group. After all, it's not like Shelby's memory at the end involves baseball, or there are many references to campiling earlier. Maybe someone else would have seized on other throw-away background details to try and get something out of this movie.

It's a shame it comes to that, though. For as much as I've been lukewarm on director Karyn Kusama's movies, I always feel like they're almost there. The Invitation did pretty much nothing for me as a whole but had some great moments, and I've got to rewatch Jennifer's Body sometime; the people who really like it all seem to like it for the reasons I wanted to, even if it didn't really manage to pull it all together. I really wanted this to be great and Nicole Kidman to hit it out of the park, but instead it's mostly just fine.


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 13 January 2018 in AMC Boston Common #14 (first-run, DCP)

Destroyer is a little better than the award-seeking gimmicks that show up front and center, but not by that much. The filmmakers tell their story of cynical cops and robbers well enough, but don't find a compelling reason to tell this particular story; there's a quick thrill as things click together in the end, but not quite to the point where one wants to go back and reconsider everything longer one is supposed to.

Seventeen years ago, LAPD detective Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman) went undercover with a federal agent (Sebastian Stan) to crack a ring of bank robbers, and the fallout from that is a big part of why she's a mess now, regularly hungover on the job, her teenage daughter (Jade Pettyjohn), already living with her stepfather (Scoot McNairy), taunting her by dating an older creep. Now she finds out that Silas (Toby Kebbell), the ringleader they ultimately failed to capture, is back in town, and she's intent on finding him before more corpses appear in the present.

Two-track crime stories like Destroyer often seem like they would be better off if they were reconfigured to focus more on one time period or the other, and that's a major issue here. Both halves of the film are rather by-the-numbers, stepping through familiar situations with only the occasional interesting deviation, although hinting at situations just interesting enough to keep the audience's attention. The flashback sequences seem a bit lighter than those in the present; too much of who Erin was to start with is held back for this thread to give an idea of how the assignment changed her, and the gang as a whole barely gets enough holding it together to make what happened to them later particularly compelling. Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi throw in a couple of sharp turns, but these aren't the sort of guys who commit entertainingly intricate crimes and the material around the robberies is restrained, saving too much for last-minute revelations that don't pack the punch they should.

Full review at EFC.

No comments: