Nicole Kidman’s face is a map of pain in this pitch-black detective noir directed by Karyn Kusama, who also helmed the underrated “Jennifer’s Body” in 2009.
Aged and weathered by decades of whiskey, self-hatred and an apparent disdain for sunscreen, Kidman’s Erin Bell is on a mission to avenge a tragedy that took place long ago, when she was undercover with a criminal gang.
She’s playing exactly the type of character male actors have always made glamorous: the messed-up but dogged detective who always gets his man, who can take a gut-punch or three and keep on trucking.
Here, the shambling Bell is so repellent to fellow officers that they mumble, “Oh, no,” to each other when she shows up at a murder scene.
The particulars of the story are typical for the genre — a heist gone wrong, a slippery crime boss — but they’re elevated to visceral levels by Kidman’s hard-core performance, as Bell grimly works her way through suspects looking for a gang leader named Silas (Toby Kebbell), who has reappeared after years underground.
Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) is nearly unrecognizable as Petra, Silas’ longtime girlfriend caught in Bell’s roundup, and Bradley Whitford shows up in the latest of his silver-haired villain roles as a sketchy lawyer.
In the film’s most painful and intimate scenes, Bell attempts, clumsily, to make peace with her estranged teenage daughter (Jade Pettyjohn), trying to keep her from skidding off the rails in the same ways that led Bell to her own downfall: She’s not only the destroyer, she’s also the destroyed.
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