DESTROYER – Review by MaryAnn Johanson

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A dead body in the concrete Los Angeles “river.” LAPD cops groan when the investigating detective shows up. They are not fans; this is, we are meant to understand, someone who is a pain in the ass to work with. The detective looks like hell shuffling toward the scene: hungover? beat up? For sure, the detective is beaten down. The detective is, we shall learn, riddled with guilt, grief, regret; does not play by the rules; drinks too much; makes a lot of bad decisions. The detective is a mass of contradictions and hypocrisies, complicities and compromised integrity.

You could have guessed all of that, because we’ve met this detective before. But Destroyer is a modern noir with a big difference: the antihero detective is a woman, and through her Destroyer will upend all the expectations that come with this hoariest of clichéd protagonists. Erin Bell is not gruffly charming or inexpressibly sexy, as her male counterparts are so often intended to be (and sometimes genuinely are). Maybe because we don’t know how to see women this messed up as appealing, or maybe because we shouldn’t see men this messed up as appealing. (Maybe male fans and critics — men who’d never thought before about how male protagonists like this one come across — will find her appealing and find themselves disturbed by that.) Either way, we are confronted by the stereotype like never before, actually asked to reckon with it. Continue reading…

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MaryAnn Johanson

MaryAnn Johanson is a freelance writer on film, TV, DVD, and pop culture from New York City and now based in London. She is the webmaster and sole critic at FlickFilosopher.com, which debuted in 1997 and is now one of the most popular, most respected, and longest-running movie-related sites on the Internet. Her film reviews also appear in a variety of alternative-weekly newspapers across the U.S. Johanson is one of only a few film critics who is a member of The International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (the Webby organization), an invitation-only, 500-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities. She is also a member of the Online Film Critics Society. She has appeared as a cultural commentator on BBC Radio, LBC-London, and on local radio programs across North America, and she served as a judge at the first Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival at the 2003 I-Con, the largest SF convention on the East Coast. She is the author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride, and is an award-winning screenwriter. Read Johanson's recent articles below. For her Women On Film archive, type "MaryAnn Johanson" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).