Film review – The Tender Hook (2008)

Set during Sydney’s Jazz Age, The Tender Hook infuses the look and doomed love-triangle storyline of a classical Hollywood film noir with a distinctively Australian edge. Hugo Weaving (V for Vendetta, The Matrix) is McHeath, a shady business man/boxing promoter who is married to Iris, the film’s enigmatic femme fatale played by Rose Byrne (28 Weeks Later, Sunshine). McHeath takes an interest in Art, an up-and-coming boxer, played by Matthew Le Nevez (Peaches, Garage Days). Iris is drawn to Art as she becomes increasingly repelled by McHeath’s tendency for violence.

It is not always obvious where the film is heading, due to the various fascinating secondary characters and sub-plots, but that’s part of its charm. It’s a character driven mood piece set in a slightly off-kilter representation of the 1920s. The film occasionally flickers like an old newsreel, scratchy archival footage is used for transitional shots and anachronistic jazz renditions of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan songs heighten the film’s stylised sensibility. Audiences who expect more obvious narrative signposts may be disappointed but The Tender Hook is a refreshingly stylish, slick and sexy change of pace for Australian cinema.

Originally appeared in The Big Issue, No. 313, 2008

© Thomas Caldwell, 2008