Try a little, little, Tenderness. The Russell Crowe cop drama Tenderness – a Greenestreet, Lionsgate affair – has been sitting on the shelf for a few years now and sallied forth very, very gingerly in Australia/NZ in April. While we hesitate to use the word “dumped”, its UK release was on the stealth side; a small single screen in London’s Apollo off Piccadilly Circus for one week, drumming up the sort of business where it’s ok to turn up and eat your lunch – because there isn’t anyone else in the cinema.
Tenderness, in fact, displayed such a shocking lack of distributor confidence that it became almost imperative to see it – how bad could it be? The answer is, indeed, bad. Tenderness is no Plan 9, but nine is an interesting number as it’s the number of days Crowe apparently spent shooting the film for his friend, the director John Polson.
In it, Crowe manages to channel William H. Macy as an obsessed, semi-retired cop who can’t let up on Eric Poole (an incredibly wooden Jon Foster, appropriately channelling Matthew Modine) who is just about to be released from a juvenile detention centre. He killed both his parents and Crowe’s Lt Cristofuoro believes he also murdered two young women.
Meanwhile, a strange young girl with suicidal tendencies (Sophie Traub) is determined to accompany Jon on a road trip through Syracuse.
It should tie together, but Tenderness is all a bit baffling – based on Robert Cormier’s novel, Tenderness also features Laura Dern in a minute role. The teen leads are pretty poor, but the direction here seems incoherent and it feels as if everyone is appearing in a different film (from scene to scene, it often feels as if the behind-camera crew is changing). A little Tenderness goes a long, long way, indeed.