Directed by John Polson, whose last film was 2005's dreadful Hide and Seek and since then he's been directing TV shows including seven episodes of "Without a Trace" and four episodes of "Flash Forward". However, before any of those shows he directed Tenderness starring Jon Foster and Sophie Taub with Russell Crowe getting top billing even though his role is minimal and equally silly as he plays Detective John Cristofuoro, a cop chasing down Eric (Foster) a recently released, and convicted killer he put away oh so many years ago.
"You're a psychopath Eric, and you're going to kill again. You know it, and I know it," Crowe says to Eric just before he is released, which gave me a good laugh. "When you walk out of here, know I will be waiting for you. I got nothing else to do." Nothing else indeed. Eric is released, delivers a cryptic one-liner and heads off on a road trip (as most recently released convicted killers will do) only to learn he has a stowaway in his back seat.
Lori (Traub) is running from her abusive home life and has what appears to be an unhealthy obsession with Eric. As Eric sets off in his station wagon, Lori pops her head up from the back seat, scares him half to death, introduces herself and yet, like any true "psychopath," he decides she couldn't be too bad to have along. Dun-dun-dun... I can only assume this is the "Edge of Your Seat Thriller" part the DVD box art
promises lies about. Anyway, off they go and Cristofuoro is hot on their heels, determined to put Eric back behind bars using a bit of entrapment as he truly has nothing else to do, or so it seems even though his wife is paralyzed and in the hospital (a fact that pops up every so often in-between flashbacks and bouts of the film's tormented score).
The film goes on and on and tries so hard, but it takes more than menacing music to actually convince an audience your story is thrilling, but boy does Polson force Jonathan Goldsmith's staccato made-for-TV beats down your throat.
It's sort of a funny thing, as I was watching, I thought to myself, Why would Russell Crowe do this movie? As a favor? Bored?
A short making-of featurette on the DVD talks about how the script was originally sent to Crowe and he turned it down saying there wasn't much for him to do. So Polson admits they came up with a "scheme" to pump it up a bit and "give it voice over" and maybe they could get Crowe on board. The film already has a lot of flashback and to learn they added the dreaded voice over just to get Crowe tells me there was hardly a concern for the quality of the film. Then Polson says Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) convinced Crowe to take the role. Essentially, yes, I read it as a favor from one Aussie to another. Fair enough, but it didn't make the film any better even though Crowe is just fine in it and does have one reaction shot near the end that works quite well, especially when taken into consideration with his final words to Eric.
What I will say, is the cinematography of Tom Stern (Changeling) is quite good. Only a few minutes into the film the shot that leads this mini-review popped up and it struck me as just beautiful (even though it has nothing to do with the plot of the film). The rest of Tenderness has a similar visual appeal, including the finale, shot on calm lake waters.