By Piya Sinha-Roy
December 20, 2018 at 12:00 PM EST
  • Movie

It would be misleading to call Oscar winner Nicole Kidman’s weary, battered, avenging LAPD detective in Destroyer a gender-flipped role. “This story only works because she’s a mother; I don’t think you can just flip it for it to be a father,” Kidman tells EW. “I feel this is very female. It may not be a female we’re used to seeing on screen, but that’s the limitations of the industry and the storytelling.”

It’s a description that’s also befitting of her director, Karyn Kusama, who has conjured an array of nontraditional female leads in her films, from the trailblazing boxer played by Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight to the savvy, savage succubus immortalized by Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body.

“She’s very female, but she’s muscular in her style, and she’s not sentimental,” Kidman says of her director. “I love that she’s like that…she doesn’t make romantic comedies; it’s not part of her makeup. This film is very true of her spirit.”

In Destroyer, Kidman plays alcoholic detective Erin Bell, who goes through a brutal undercover stint with drug dealers in her younger years. The film jumps between the past and present, exploring how she ends up so physically and emotionally broken; Kidman plays both incarnations. It’s a choice not often seen in films that tend to use younger actors for flashbacks, but one that Kidman said she insisted on — and Kusama deemed necessary.

“We see this woman when she’s beautiful and reckless, but she has hope and feels like everything is in front of her,” the filmmaker explains. “And then to see how that has curdled, you really feel the relationship between [Bell’s] two lives.”

Destroyer will be released in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas Day. Watch a new clip from the film above.

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