September 13, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto Film Festival Reviews: “Destroyer” & “Climax”


DESTROYER (Annapurna – Dec. 25):  Another fractured-time thriller, this one trickier than most, because the script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi features a sort of time-loop within a loop.  All that structural fanciness aside, Destroyer is mostly a vehicle for Nicole Kidman’s aggressively deglamorized performance as an end-of-the-line LAPD detective named Erin Bell.  Some years earlier, Bell went undercover with a bank-robbing gang headed by Silas (Toby Kebbell), and things ended disastrously; now Silas is back, and both he and Erin are out to erase their tracks at whatever violent cost.  Director Karyn Kusama gives Kidman the space for weariness and regret amidst the bloodshed, and there’s a first-rate supporting cast that includes a tastily nasty turn from Bradley Whitford, plus Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan and Scoot McNairy.  Even that estimable group, however, pales next to Kidman, who’s in Charlize Theron in Monster territory here, dead-eyed, grimly desperate and as both an actress and a character, asking for no quarter.  Some of the script’s hardbitten cop stuff feels familiar, and at 123 minutes, the pace is sometimes sluggish and self-important.  But when the pieces of the plot snap together, and everything we’ve seen makes sense, Kusama pulls off some terrific action set-pieces, and Kidman’s unrelenting work gives the ending real impact.

CLIMAX (A24 – TBD):  It may be time for Gaspar Noe to stop reading his own publicity.  Noe has been arthouse cinema’s official provocateur since I Stand Alone 20 years ago, and while the remarkable Irreversible and Enter the Void have resulted from that, Climax suggests that he’s now reaching for sensation above all else.  To the extent Climax is comprehensible, it’s quite simple:  a French dance troupe finds out too late that the sangria they’ve been drinking after a rehearsal has been spiked with LSD, and they all go on a very, very bad trip.  On a more cosmic level, the film depicts a journey from heaven to hell, a fact that Noe indicates with customary subtlety by filming the entire last section of the story in a dim reddish glow.  The opening sequences of Climax, featuring an electrifying All That Jazz-like single shot record of the group’s rehearsal, is enjoyable in a way that’s new for Noe and particularly pleasing.  But once the acid sets in, Noe begins shooting the action with showoffy camera moves (the impressive, if annoying, photography is by Benoit Debie) that film the actors upside down for minutes on end, or directly down on the tops of their heads, and he hammers electronica on the soundtrack so insistently that the whole audience could use a drink.  After a certain point, Noe stops even pretending to care about characters or coherence, and the 95-minute film seems to go on for days.  Apart from some repeated dialogue about France and the French flag that may or may not mean anything, it’s just an excuse to show people going randomly insane.  Next time, Noe should stop being “Gaspar Noe” and just make a musical.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."