Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Hyena

Everyone loves a good crime film. And sometimes, nobody does it better than the Brits. From golden oldies like The Long Good Friday and Get Carter to modern classics like Sexy Beast and Snatch, we know how it’s done. But in recent years with efforts like Welcome to the Punch and RocknRolla failing to bring anything fresh to the table, it looked like we were losing our touch. Look out, folks. There’s a new British crime thriller on the prowl, and it is here to remind us all how it’s done.


Directed by Gerard Johnson and out now on DVD only; Hyena is more than just your generic run-of-the-mill police corruption thriller. Sure, it might look unoriginal on paper - corrupt London cop Michael Logan tries to shut down an Albanian crime ring before his own illegal activities are discovered – but this is an extremely fresh take on the genre. Peter Ferdinando, cousin of director Johnson, is absolutely phenomenal in the lead role of Michael Logan – portraying a deeply troubled man trying to keep his head above water as his illicit past catches up on him. Of course, he’s a bit of a shit, but deep down he is a decent man who has made mistakes. Ferdinando, reteaming with Johnson after 2009’s Tony, is a criminally underrated actor and shows us here that he’s a force to be reckoned with. The film completely and utterly belongs to him, and one feels will be looked back on in many years as the film that truly introduced us to the next big actor in British film.


The supporting cast are excellent too, with British crime favourite Stephen Graham and Kill List’s Neil Maskell being the other highlights. But the best member of the supporting cast? The living, breathing London itself. Never has London ‘played itself’ so grittily, seedily and dirtily. Shot entirely on location, Hyena probably isn’t the sort of film the city’s tourism societies will be endorsing. I love London - Samuel Johnson said ‘when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford’ – but watching Hyena, I’m not in any rush to jump on the next train there! That being said, the film is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve seen in a very long time. From the dirty, wet streets to the cramped and dark pubs; Hyena is a film you can’t look away from. All the more shocking then, when the brutal violence or visceral sexual violence takes you by surprise and almost forces you to watch. No, this is not a film for the faint-hearted. Very strong language, violence and sex are littered throughout creating a viewing experience that just feels dirty in itself. But therein lies the skill of the filmmaking – you feel part of these characters’ world and, like them, you just want to get out. But it isn’t that easy.

The pacing of the film is relentless too; as Michael’s world spirals out of control and the bodies pile up, the film flies by in an almost aggressive manner – helped by a superb atmospheric score by TheThe. With several unexpected twists along the way, Hyena stands out as an extremely original piece of work. But some people have criticised this – the ending in particular, which I won’t spoil, has been the subject of both praise and hate from a quick look on the IMDb message boards. Incidentally, Col Needham - founder and CEO of IMDb – included Hyena among his favourite films of 2014. But for me, the ending was perfect – as was the 100 minutes that preceded it.


In conclusion, Hyena is a difficult film to watch. It is uncompromising in its bloody violence, strong language, drug use and sexual content. But if you can stomach all of that, you are in for a hell of a ride. Hyena is one of the strongest British films of recent years and if I was to re-do my Best of 21st Century British Alternative Cinema article I did for the CeX blog a few months back, Hyena would be included without a shadow of a doubt.

Hyena is one of the most visceral film experiences I’ve had in recent months, but one of the best. 5/5


★★★★★


Sam Love


Hyena at CeX


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