It seems like Russell Crowe is engaging himself in an intense game of peek a boo with the audience in Tenderness, and we, the audience, are expected to patiently wait for Crowe to pop up and thrill us with his presence. Crowe is, without a doubt, the film's biggest star and therefore perceived as the film's main attraction. But that isn't the case. I mean, come on, the film's poster places the image of his head directly in the middle and proportionally larger than his co-stars', Sophie Traub and Jon Foster. So fans of Russell Crowe don't fall victim to the marketing ploy of false advertisement capitalized to garner a larger viewing.
Despite the lack of Russell Crowe, the film isn't horrible. Its a serial killer suspense film that involves disturbed teenagers, and concentrates on three individuals: a sixteen year old girl named Lori (Sophie Traub), a psychopathic eighteen year old serial killer named Eric (Jon Foster), and a "do-gooder" cop, Lt. Christofuoro, played by Crowe. But for the most part, the film emphasizes the twisted relationship between Lori and Eric and the nature of these two characters. Eric is the clean cut, All-American teen with an unhealthy appetite for deceased members of the opposite sex. But he isn't depicted as a lascivious creature on the pussy prowl, and expresses a feeling of urgency to reform his impure ways, leading him to a path of good. Lori is the artistically inclined teenager, who after witnessing Eric's first crime, finds beauty in the act and an obsession for serial killer develops. She is a loquacious individual with depressive properties due her family life. Before much has progressed in the film, it is obvious that the paths of these obsessive individuals will inevitably intertwine. This is not a film based on the sacrificial lamb's voluntary demise by the hands of mischievous wolf. It is beyond that; the relationship between the two develop in a thrilling fashion.
In the beginning, Eric is held within the securely guarded juvenile penitentiary. He leaves the confines of the prison, but Detective Christofuoro, who frequently visits Eric in prison, expects trouble to arise due to Eric's psychopathic tendencies. However, while he was in prison, a pretty girl named Maria catches his eye. She gives him instructions to contact her once they both are released to roam the outside world. This gesture becomes his first order of business to attend to.
Lori enters his life in an unusual manner. She seeks out Eric at his aunt's house, where he stays before he departs to spend the weekend with Maria at an amusement park. She stands amidst the media hoopla that takes place outside the home, and takes refuge in the back of Eric's car as it precipitates outside. The two formally meet as Eric begins his excursion, driving his station wagon. Lori jumps out from the back and startles Eric. Initially Eric refuses accompaniment on his trip, but he reluctantly allows her to follow him. It becomes, in my opinion, an interesting journey to observe. How will the wolf respond to his carnivorous appetite, and will the sacrificial lamb instigate the matter? Lt. Christofuoro remains on Eric's tail and follows his trail.
The film is essentially well acted by its three main participants, but its weakness lies within the plot and superfluous minor details. It focuses too much on Lori and Eric's relationship that nothing much is able to develop. Over and over, Eric experiences recurring flashbacks of his mother discovering his sacred red ribbon, an item that he uses to caress his victim's corpse, when he contemplates killing Lori. But the flashbacks are frivolous, adding unnecessary variables to the equation. Eliminating the flashbacks in exchange for more Russell Crowe scenes would drastically improve the storyline; this is a notion that is beyond his superior star status to his colleagues in the film. Lt. Christofuoro's pursuit of Eric is heavily overshadowed by Eric and Lori's journey. The imbalance created evokes a sense of confusion when Christofuoro is present in a scene closely on the heels of the other two characters, because there are no explanations for his abrupt appearances. The subplot simply isn't given the opportunity to develop and flourish.
Overall, the film doesn't bring anything new to the table. Tenderness falls prey to the cliches and the melodramatic characters. Lori is a disgruntled teen with an unstable family structure where her step father molests her. In addition, Lt. Christofuoro is given a terminally ill wife in an attempt to add sympathy to his character; Her presence doesn't effect the plot in any way, but removing her from the storyline would help eliminate some of the filler hindering the film's quality. These characters have been utilized in movies before. Tenderness a slow paced film that builds up tension uniformly throughout the film. Suspense and sexual tension is present throughout, creating an intriguing viewing experience if one can look pass the plethora of unimportant, redundant flashbacks and wasteful use of Russell Crowe. Would I recommend it? Sure I would, because I enjoyed it; however, its a decent film that requires an extremely tolerant and patient audience to look pass the many of its flaws.