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Lionsgate is feeling tender for Oz director John Polson’s “Tenderness,” toplining Russell Crowe.

Indie studio has scooped up U.S., U.K., Australian and South African distrib rights to the thriller, which also stars Jon Foster, Sophie Traub and Laura Dern.

GreeneStreet Films produced the pic, and co-financed with iDeal Partners Film Fund and the Hanson Film Fund.

Lionsgate is eying a late 2007 domestic release.

Adapted by scribe Emil Stern from Robert Cormier’s novel of the same name, “Tenderness” follows a violent young man who takes up with a trusting runaway. Crowe plays a hardened local cop who has been tracking the man for years, determined to expose him as a serial killer.

“The common denominator here is intensity: On the one hand, you have the heightened emotions of a young couple on the run, and on the other, the fierce resolve of the cop who is hard on their trail, trying to prevent disaster,” said Lionsgate prexy of theatrical films Tom Ortenberg and prexy of acquisitions Peter Block.

Producers of the pic are GreeneStreet’s John Penotti, Howard Meltzer and Charles Randolph. GreeneStreet’s Fisher Stevens and Tim Williams are exec producing, along with iDeal’s Jana Edelbaum and Hanson Film Fund’s Scott Hanson and John Allen.