The familiar face of Nicole Kidman is dramatically transformed into a scary being who could have walked off the set of The Walking Dead.
She’s a haunted, hollowed-out individual seeking revenge and is physically unrecognisable. She gives an utterly riveting performance as Erin Bell, a Los Angeles police detective who embarks on a moral and existential odyssey to right a terrible wrong perpetuated when she was a young cop.
As a young cop, she was working an undercover operation with a vicious gang in the California desert, and this ended in tragedy. When the gang leader re-emerges many years later, Bell must work her way back through the remaining members and into her own history with them to finally deal with the demons that destroyed her past.
Film director Karyn Kusama’s production is a heavy-going exercise in angst and self-hatred. It’s a depressing trek into the psyche of a woman who has abandoned everything she cares about in pursuit of one man.
Kidman’s character is intense. She staggers from bar room to crime scene and back again, detouring occasionally to have a random argument with her ex-husband (Scoot McNairy) and estranged daughter (Jade Pettyjohn), who is desperately trying to get her mother’s attention again.
Bell may seem alive, but her spirit is dead – and it’s all because of her past.
Viewers get to view glimpses of this in vivid flashbacks that Kusama folds into the murder probe that frames this film. There’s a dead body in a culvert; Bell thinks she knows who might be responsible and launches her own off-the-books investigation much to the annoyance of her colleagues.
At the same time, she gets word that a sinister figure from her past (Toby Kebbell) has resurfaced, someone who will force her to remember everything she is trying to forget including important missing evidence that all these years later, still has the power to incriminate and destroy.
Kidman displays an uncanny ability to convey her character’s interior struggle, an individual whittled down by guilt, grief, and regret.
This disillusioned rogue is difficult to hear, especially when her dialogue is delivered as a whisper at times. Her investigation is conducted without any moral or legal boundaries and its telling.
There is solid support from Sebastian Stan as Bell’s former partner, and Shamier Anderson as her sidelined current one. There’s also Tatiana Maslany; a woman with knowledge of her past and perhaps a premonition of her future.
Fans of hard-boiled detective movies will appreciate the film’s many nuances with the gritty, graphic action and a commanding aspect of the production.
When the story circles cleverly back on itself at the end, you come to realise the true ingenuity of this escapade.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Tony Kebbell, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, Jade Pettyjohn, Shamier Anderson and Tatiana Maslany
Director: Karyn Kusama
Classification: 16 DLSV