Proof Review: Tenderness (2009)

Release Date
December 11, 2009
Director
John Polson
Screenplay
Emil Stern
Based On The Book By
Robert Cormier
Distributed By
Lionsgate
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content, and language
101 minutes

Tenderness

Certain films, it appears, exist solely to tease viewers into craving the superior films in an actors annals, all while being forced to endure the detrimental ventures of said actor. Tenderness is one of those films. Russell Crowe stars as Lt. Cristofuoro, yet the entire film I could not help but re-imagine all the better performances Crowe has delivered throughout his career. The first question that comes to mind is why, at this point in Crowe’s career, would he submit himself to such a low end production? Crowe, who is known for his award earning roles in films like Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and Cinderella Man, and most recently gracing films like State of Play, 3:10 to Yuma, and Body of Lies. Yet, with such a padded resume, Crowe finds himself in this uninspiring Indy piece. The second question regards to John Polson and his misfire, coming off the undeniable successes his first films Hide & Seek and a personal favorite, Swimfan.

Now, do not get me wrong, I enjoy many Indy films and feel as though the roles that major actors play in them are most often career highlights. Tenderness, on the other hand, fails to register as meaningful or display any hint of originality. So then why would Crowe sign on for such a project when his last film, Robin Hood, continued his streak of epicness. Not that it holds much weight, but in scanning for an answer, Wikipedia brought to attention the fact that Crowe only agreed to take on the film after adding his own personal suggestions to the role and pulling for a different narrative for the film.

Tenderness had such potential with the Russell Crowe factor and the striking artwork on the case, but once again, the promotional team wins. The story follows an 18 year old boy, Eric, (Jon Foster) after being released from juvenile detention for the murder of his parents. Believing the boy has killed more than his parents and convinced he will murder again, Crowe’s character follows the boy, in attempt to illicit a response from the boy he brought to justice originally. Sophie Traub plays 16 year old Lori, who is in a constant state of emotional abuse, from her boss masturbating to her in his office to her mother’s boyfriend watching her in the shower. Aware that Eric is to be released, she finds a way to hide in his vehicle and ventures, willingly, with the would-be murder through the countryside.

The constant struggle for Eric not to kill again is the only gripping portion of the film. In emotional disarray, Foster’s character is the only one that appears three dimensional. Traub’s character, though conflicted, fails to register on any different level besides willing and desperate, traits unbefitting of such an emotionally deep character. By the end, the performances lack so much that little can be expected from the outcome of the climax.

Tenderness will become infamous; a black-mark on an otherwise clean slated Russell Crowe and John Polson, proving Crowe should stick to the meaningful pieces and Polson should stick to television (Fringe, FlashForward, Mentalist). The film is successful in one facet and that is beaming a light on the rest of Crowe’s catalog and causing a subtle craving for one of his better endeavors. This viewer will turn to my favorites of Crowe’s like A Beautiful Mind and 3:10 to Yuma and look forward to his upcoming suspense thriller The Next Three Days. Ultimately, Indy films take a gamble. And like in Vegas, you win some and you lose some.

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