Hyena Screen 11 articles

Hyena

2014

Hyena Poster
  • Hyena is a British crime film that made me grimace perhaps more than any film I’ve ever seen. The whole thing was so difficult to watch that it pains me to attempt to summarize it... If it was the filmmakers’ goal to make the audience uncomfortable for the film’s entire duration, they’ve succeeded brilliantly.

  • In essence, Gerard Johnson's film is a march toward seeing this morally ambiguous main character's chickens finally come home to roost, but this trajectory feels unimaginative given how little is invested in distinguishing Michael from the other officers on the force beyond the fact that he's perhaps less corrupt.

  • There’s nothing out of order here—the locales are appropriately dingy and atmospheric, the lead character is compellingly rotten, the plot tightens to a vise squeeze in the third act—but every beat that isn’t provided by The The strikes exactly where it’s expected. It’s a film about the lawless and unruly, but it could stand to step outside the lines a bit.

  • Unlike last year’s Filth, Hyena doesn’t come across as if it’s reveling in its characters’ bad behavior. A few dreamy interludes aside, the film’s tone is cool, dispassionate, and matter-of-fact. All that’s missing is a reason to give a damn.

  • Johnson aspires to make Hyena into the stuff of classical tragedy, yet he telegraphs Michael's inward transformation way too soon—even when the thuggish cop beats up arrestees or throws a wild drug party, he doesn't seem that bad. As opposed to Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant (a key influence), Hyena never inspires revulsion at corrupt cops or intimates that the antihero is beyond redemption.

  • A neon-lit, empty, enjoyably cynical bauble, echoing Winding Refn (some Balkan barbarity in the final act recalls Pusher 3) though the style is less lavish. Starts as cop movie, tries to switch gears into cocaine-driven ride - a lot of the white stuff gets sniffed - and goes off the rails in the second half, with faster pace and bigger twists that beggar belief (plot is resolved by the device of people going apeshit and doing irrational things, which always seems a bit fake; see also Black Sea).

  • What “Hyena” lacks in invention, it makes up for in technical bravado and geographical specificity, its vivid West London milieu coloring a stock story of a corrupt narcotics detective (the excellent Peter Ferdinando) whose chickens come home most bloodily to roost.

  • For a good while, Hyena drives forward with real urgency and palpable menace. However, hackneyed exchanges, clunky exposition and predictable plot developments act as speed bumps breaking its confident charge. It lacks the depth and dialogue to match its visual ferocity and the clout of its cast. Johnson’s film starts out racing before developing a bit of a limp; its beautifully captured brutality and hypnotising revelry hint at the masterful film that might have been.

  • The film's convoluted moral trajectory to hell may be as unoriginal as quoting Taxi Driver, and the pervasive violent menace can be needlessly punishing (including a drugged sexual assault), but as stylish, scorched-earth entertainment, it'll get you in its teeth.

  • The dourness of Johnson’s aesthetic easily curdles into self-seriousness, choking the film of real energy; plot potentialities are rerouted for the purposes of another, more important character being hacked to pieces, revealing that Hyena ultimately has the priorities of a slasher picture as much (if not more) than those of a mystery or character study. But even so, there’s much to savor, including inspired, slow-burning supporting turns from Stephen Graham and Richard Dormer.

  • A dynamic new talent, Johnson renders this sleazy and brutal world with utter conviction, and sets a new standard for crime-movie authenticity, while giving his powerful lead actor Peter Ferdinando the kind of role that doesn’t grow on trees.