Destroyer (Blu-ray Review)

As is usually the case towards the end of any year, Destroyer is a film that got caught in the middle of a pile of 2018 movies all hoping to receive awards consideration. The Annapurna Pictures release was one of a few to underperform as a result, though it did garner a Golden Globe nomination for star Nicole Kidman. Regardless, the film is a solid gritty crime drama, and it is worth a look. Between the strong cast and the very visceral feel of the film, there’s a lot to latch onto for a movie that shows just how strong something can come across thanks to technical effort, even if the story plays into some familiar concepts.



Destroyer stars Kidman as LAPD detective Erin Bell. When we meet Erin, she looks tired, beaten, and weathered. Much has been made of the physical transformation Kidman has gone through to portray this character, and it pays off. It’s one thing to play up a role wearing a fake nose and a wig, but there’s never anything to complain about if those choices inform the film as we’re watching it. That’s the sense that we get as this film plays out, especially given the flashbacks that show a time before Erin turned into the anti-hero she has become.

The story focuses on Erin’s pursuit of gang members that could connect her to criminals she and her former partner (Sebastian Stan) were embedded with, in an undercover capacity many years prior. This leads Erin down a dark road that has her interrogating and pursuing various shady characters, ideally leading her back to her main adversary, Silas (Toby Kebbell). In taking on this journey, Erin also reflects on the past, while dealing with her current station in life, which includes her relationship with her troublemaker daughter Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn).

While presented as the grittiest of cop dramas thanks to both a low budget and the intended style of the feature, it’s not short on great talent. In addition to Kidman and the others mentioned, the film also stars Tatiana Maslany, Bradley Whitford, Toby Huss, and Scoot McNairy. Destroyer essentially doubles as a who’s who of character actors, who have all chosen to go on this intense journey dealing with guilt, corruption, and redemption.

There’s a lot of play in this film, but that last point is essential. While Erin has certainly involved herself in rough situations that have left her a broken person, she’s the sort of anti-hero where her odyssey has an ideal end and is deeply personal. There are moral challenges we see her face throughout the film and watching the character walk the line of criminal activities maintains her status as an intriguing character to follow. It’s a strong performance that undoubtedly presented a challenge, as Erin is disgruntled and just as brutal as the criminals around her, and yet we need to stay on her side to see where the film plans to take us.

Only adding to the quality of Destroyer is Karyn Kusama’s direction. While the story doesn’t have too many new ideas to add to the genre (which is not necessarily a bad thing), there’s an intensity always on display here thanks to a devotion to being in Erin’s headspace and the look of the film as a whole. The action presented leads to violence that looks painful. Using Los Angeles as a location means having the film frequently drenched in sunlight, providing a washed out look that reflects on the characters. It’s an aggressive film that Kusama has precise control over when it comes to delivering a distinct feel for what Destroyer is going for.

Helping this all come together is the excellent cinematography by Julie Kirkwood, who matches the tone required for the film with a visual look that evokes a variety of things when it comes to crime, noir, drama, and thriller elements. Theodore Shapiro’s score is equally strong, as it finds the right times to lay out propulsive energy while hitting subtle notes when needed as well. All of this makes for a well put together film.

It may not have had a considerable impact during the 2018 award season, but Destroyer delivers as far as gritty cop features go. There’s also plenty of things one can say (and many already have) about how this film plays against familiarity regarding what gender is involved in all the key aspects here. While important, it does stand to reason to highlight Destroyer as a solid genre film, regardless of its choices. There’s a concept in mind for this film, and everyone involved did a terrific job to achieve their goal.



Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Clarity/Detail: I’ve mentioned how gritty this film is a few times and that is very much reflected in this Blu-ray transfer. The LA and desert locations mean getting a lot of light and washed out looks at the environment, but there’s always a high level of detail present. Characters are stand out thanks to purposefully dark costume design to better contrast with their surroundings, which is a solid product of the film’s clarity.

Depth: Depth of field is captured well here, with a level of dimensionality that comes across effectively. Thanks to the framing, you have many scenes that emphasize the placement of characters within various scenes, which pays off well here.

Black Levels: Shadow and black levels are terrific throughout. When the film heads indoors or takes on a few nighttime sequences, we get a chance to see how strong these areas of the film are thanks to a lack of crush.

Color Reproduction: Colors look great. While scenes are rarely designed to pop with color, you can see what is needed in the form of production design and other little moments that shine.

Flesh Tones: Character detail is excellent. Facial textures are handled in all the right ways.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean.



Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Descriptive Audio 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: The lossless track presented here does plenty to highlight all of the specific choices that keep us in the character’s headspace. Score and other elements are important, but it’s all handled quite appropriately for the film we are watching, which is reflected well in this audio track.

Low-Frequency Extension: There are some good moments to bring life to the LFE channel. One bank robbery sequence, in particular, is a stand out thanks to the use of machine guns that give the woofer a kick.

Surround Sound Presentation: The film is front and center-focused, but you have plenty go on as far as the surrounding atmosphere. The balance is great, as you are never at a loss for what’s taking place, especially given the film’s perspective.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is heard loud and clear.



This Blu-ray arrives with two commentary tracks and a behind-the-scenes look at the film. I’m all for commentary tracks, so that puts this release a step up, despite not having more supplements that focus on other aspects of production.

Features Include:

  • Commentary with Director Karyn Kusama – Kusama’s focus is mainly on character and challenges of making this gritty cop picture.
  • Commentary with Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi – These two put focus themes and the broader concepts in regards to the story.
  • Breaking of an Anti-Hero: The Making of Destroyer (HD, 19:06) – This is a standard EPK, though enough is packed in these 19 minutes to help a viewer learn some useful information about the production in an abridged fashion.
  • Gallery (HD)
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD)
  • DVD Copy of the Film
  • Digital HD Copy of the Film



While mostly overlooked while in theaters, Destroyer is now available for everyone to check out. Fans of crime thrillers will certainly want to see what this movie has to offer. As expected, the technical presentation is excellent, with the video transfer preserving the intense look and a lossless audio track that does plenty to keep the viewer engrossed. The extras are limited, but I won’t frown at having two different commentary tracks. This is a solid package for a good film about such a damaged person.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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