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Exquisite Tenderness
cast: Isabel Glasser, James Remar, Peter Boyle, Malcolm McDowell, and Charles Dance

director: Carl Schenkel

100 minutes (18) 1994
Pathé DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 2/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Dr McCann is a confident doctor who's tough on her medical students - but the hospital she works at seems to hide a lot of dark secrets. A maverick researcher is carrying out experimental procedures on both animals and humans, and the senior doctor seems determined to cover up his colleague's lethal failures.
   When one of McCann's patients dies in the same way as an experimental animal, she ends up suspended, and tries to talk a handsome, self-assured student into helping her investigate. In between the stirrings of romance, they uncover the culprit - but he proves to be a lot harder to stop, and more closely connected to Dr McCann, than they'd ever imagined...
   A friend of mine, seeing the review tape lying around the house, remarked that it sounded like 'Swedish porn'. I'm sure I wouldn't know; in fact, the title is a medical term for the point at which physical pain reaches its most intense. I could make all kinds of smart remarks about how painful this film is to watch - but to be honest; it's so lacklustre that it can't even raise a wince.
   It suffers badly from what is in fact its finest moment: a deliciously kitsch black-and-white prologue, set in the 1950s and shot in the Hammer horror style, establishing a character's childhood trauma. But we then abandon the (male) child for whom we've developed sympathy, picking up with the rather predictable Dr McCann instead, when we'd probably far rather follow the story from the mysterious killer's point of view.
   Much of the story is implausible: surely no hospital would conduct primate experiments on the premises (if only to prevent the patients from being disturbed by the inevitable animal rights' protests)? The tone of the film swings wildly from medical drama to romance to full-out horror, complete with the obligatory return from the dead.
   Isabel Glasser and James Remar plough heroically through reams of exposition and lumpen explanations of their motivations and feelings, while Malcolm McDowell and Charles Dance slum it as the principal suspects. A cross between a bad serial killer movie and a shoddy episode of ER, Exquisite Tenderness (aka: The Surgeon) has little to recommend it.
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