Dangerous affections and stylistic affectations spar endlessly, with hardly a solid punch scored, in the dull neo-noir Oz boxing pic "The Tender Hook." High-profile Antipodean thesps Rose Byrne ("Troy," "28 Weeks Later") and Hugo Weaving ("The Matrix"), plus splendid lensing re-creating ’20s Sydney, are wasted on a lackluster script by helmer Jonathan Ogilvie. Big rollout Sept. 18 is likely to reap less-than-K.O. local B.O., though ancillary viewers may fall for the name-cast sucker punch.
Gangster’s moll Iris (Byrne) enjoys the trappings of consorting with razor-wielding hoodlum McHeath (Weaving), but nevertheless casts an amorous eye on his pugilist protege, Art (Matt Le Nevez). Romantic dillydallying is supposed to be fraught with danger, but the results are limp and predictable. Hog-tied by flat, deliberately anachronistic dialogue and weak humor, actors give weak performances — especially the elfin Pia Miranda ("Travelling Light," "Three Blind Mice"). D.p. Geoffrey Simpson‘s earthy tones, augmented by digital manipulation of archival footage of Jazz Age Sydney, are especially appealing. Quality score by Chris Abrahams is applied with all the finesse of a heavyweight champ knitting a sweater with gloves on.
Camera (color), Geoffrey Simpson; editor, Ken Sallows; music, Chris Abrahams; production designer, Peter Baxter; art director, Janie Parker. Reviewed at Reel Room, Sydney, Aug. 27, 2008. Running time: 102 MIN.