If you’re looking for senseless gun-toting violence and jokey Mockney banter, then prepare to be disappointed, because writer/director Gerard Johnson has crafted a blistering thriller that bites.
Bent undercover drug squad cop DS Michael Logan (Peter Ferdinando) has his territory marked – doing deals with the local West London gangs, while keeping his superiors sweet, and his instincts have always kept him one step ahead of the game. But when a pair of ruthless Albanian sibling criminals muscle in, and an investigator (Stephen Graham) and a embittered detective (Richard Dormer) start sniffing around, Logan’s fractured world spirals out of control…
Hyena starts off very bloody and keeps on bleeding until the bitter end. Gerard Johnson’s London is an urban jungle where good and dirty cops try to outdo each other, while the city’s warring gangs rule the streets. In this violent world, good and evil is blurred indeed – and no more so than in Peter Ferdinando’s super bent Logan. Forced to take desperate measures to recoup the money he’s lost in a gang deal gone bad, the corrupt copper might be deserving of everything he gets, but he’s also got a good heart, as witnessed when he tries to help a woman (Elisa Lasowski) escape from human traffickers. And Ferdinando plays him with grit and emotion. It’s both powerful and painful to watch.
Many of the film’s nocturnal shots of council estates and nightclub interiors may have an arty Edward Hopper-esque hue, but Gerard’s camera aims for realism throughout, greatly helped by including non-actors and semi-improvised scenes. But he doesn’t hold back on the blood and violence, which includes rape, decapitation and dismemberment.
The film’s music, from The The’s Matt Johnson, meanwhile, is also a hugely important stylistic device – moving between discordant guitar strumming, amphetamine-laced disco, hip-hop and exotic ethnic beats, it emphasises the film’s multi-cultural Petri dish while also echoing Logan’s psyche. Thankfully, a soundtrack has been released from Death Waltz Records in the UK.
The final 20-minutes is a total adrenaline rush, as though all that coke and weed taken by the gangsters and cops – including Neil Maskell‘s right bastard Martin – has finally hit. But – and this is my only gripe – that ‘what’s he going to do now!’ final shot makes for a disappointing comedown.
Hyena is out on DVD in the UK from Metrodome Distribution, and includes as extra features, a making of featurette, interviews and theatrical trailer
• Listen to the soundtrack on Sound Cloud