The surprising presence of two thrillers at the Toronto film festival featuring women in the lead role of detective underlines how rare such films are. Destroyer and Out of Blue represent a pair of refreshing entries to a male-dominated genre. But this shortage isn’t just a symptom of good old-fashioned Hollywood sexism – it also seems to have its roots in a deeper, more complex apprehension.
The movie detective is so popular because it’s a character trope centred on transgressions – try to count them, and you’ll soon note many more bad cops than good ones. It excites us to see a character do things society does not allow; when they can justify this violence with claims of a higher purpose – justice, for instance, or protecting innocent people – it is exhilarating. Films about bad cops often push this logic to its breaking point, forcing us to wonder if the end really justifies the means.