THE TENDER HOOK, is set in Sydney during the 1920s and McHeath, (HUGO WEAVING), is a criminal who operates as a boxing promoter and a night-club owner, assisted by his oddball off-siders Donnie and Ronnie, (JOHN BATCHELOR and TYLER COPPIN).
He hires a young boxer, Art, (MATT LE NEVEZ) who takes a liking to his sexy mistress, Iris, (ROSE BYRNE).
THE TENDER HOOK is the second feature made by Jonathan Ogilvie, after EMULSION two years ago, a hit-and-run drama which also starred Matt Le Nevez.
The new film evokes a world of Sydney during ‘the jazz age’ mostly by means of archive material and the settings are deliberately stylised.
LE NEVEZ is excellent as the young boxer, while ROSE BYRNE gives a deliciously enigmatic performance as the gangster’s moll who is attracted to one of her lover’s employees.
HUGO WEAVING is a little stiff as McHeath, but that could be because the character isn’t very fully developed. In fact the film itself promises more than it delivers.
Despite some very strong elements, it never really works as a thriller or as a romance, and some of the elements are unusually strange.
I was surprised, too, to see that during a trip to the cinema to see Alfred Hitchcock’s THE LODGER, made in 1927, a newsreel is screened in a widescreen system that wasn’t introduced until 1953.
DAVID: Just for starters. Margaret?
MARGARET: David, I sometimes don’t believe you.
DAVID: No, but I mean immediately it’s so anachronistic but then, of course, there are…
MARGARET: Yeah. But, no. But the film starts with something that’s completely out of place because, you know, the McHeath character is singing I’m Your Man, the Leonard Cohen song, in the middle of the ring. I’m sorry, that’s decades apart.
DAVID: Well, that’s what I mean. It’s strange. There’s very strange things about this film.
MARGARET: Well, it’s obviously been done deliberately but it’s unsettling, so you think something is not quite right here. So I don’t know what Jonathan Ogilvie wanted to achieve by that unsettling of his audience with the sort of things that don’t…
DAVID: Jarring things.
MARGARET: …don’t match particularly well. But I also think he wasn’t quite sure of what he wanted to make because it falls between two camps this film, and as a result it…
DAVID: It doesn’t quite work as either one.
MARGARET: It’s a bit of a shame because there are terrific…
DAVID: But there’s so much talent involved.
MARGARET: There are terrific elements in this.
DAVID: Yeah. Yeah.
MARGARET: I think Rose is fabulous, you know.
DAVID: Terrific, yeah. Yeah.
MARGARET: I mean, I think the performances generally are very impressive.
DAVID: Yeah. Yeah.
MARGARET: We’ve got a lot of talent there but it’s…
DAVID: And it looks good. It looks interesting.
MARGARET: Yeah, but it just doesn’t quite come together the way I think he would have wanted.