Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.
USA, 2018. 30West, Automatik. Screenplay by Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi. Cinematography by Julie Kirkwood. Produced by Fred Berger, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi. Music by Theodore Shapiro. Production Design by Kay Lee. Costume Design by Audrey Fisher. Film Editing by Plummy Tucker. Golden Globe Awards 2018. Toronto International Film Festival 2018.
A grizzled, self-destructive Los Angeles cop (Nicole Kidman) gets a message that she knows means that her past has come back to haunt her. Intermittent scenes from the past inform us that when she was younger and more optimistic, she and another officer (Sebastian Stan) went undercover with a violent gang of bank robbers and the results of the operation still show on her weary, ravaged face (actually, given the excessive enthusiasm of the makeup department, the results of the wheels of a runaway train show on her face). In the present, she blazes a trail through the city to find him, looking up known associates high and low, taking blows from some and returning them in full measure, her past a series of jagged clues that we slowly assemble as the plot progresses. The willingness of Kidman to be as true to her character as is necessary and maintain her typical lack of vanity upholds her reputation as a skilled and riveting actor, but the look is somewhat overwrought and at times distracting, her mottled Aileen Wuornos skin and brushy wig practically begging you to admire them and, in their overdone state, never let you forget that you’re watching a very glamorous star play ugly as a stunt. The film works far better when focusing on the determination in her eyes, and the plot is much stronger in the present day search than in the flashbacks, which lack tension and never quite bring the movie together. If it maintained the quality of the sequence in which she interrogates Bradley Whitford as a snotty rich lawyer throughout, it would be a masterpiece, but as it is it manages to be an entertaining drama with a noir bent that only has a few memorable moments.