Cinema Review: Hyena | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 21st, 2021  


Studio: Tribeca Film
Directed by Gerard Johnson

Apr 29, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Peter Ferdinando is Michael, a corrupt, drug-using cop in Gerard Johnson’s latest feature, Hyena. Michael and his team are deep undercover, floating openly and conspicuously through London’s underworld, shaking hands with and shaking down traffickers, always sure to negotiate favorable terms (drugs, money) in exchange for looking the other way as long as they can. Despite his self-serving enterprises, Michael has a reputation for being a good cop, one who brings down the major bad guys with regularity. However, the rules of the game change when Albanian gangsters, the Kabashi brothers (Gjevat Kelmendi and Orli Shuka), sweep into town, overthrowing the Turkish mobsters who had been in power and upsetting Michael’s ability to maintain control of the situation.

Johnson’s film isn’t afraid to get its hands dirty, and neither are any of its characters. In fact, dirty work is what seems to drive everyone in the movie, regardless of which side of the law he or she might technically fall on. The Kabashi brothers are notably brutal; a scene in which they hack a body to bits, reveling in the gore, even rubbing blood all over their naked torsos is particularly graphic. Similarly, Michael is so deeply mired in unscrupulous dealings that it would be almost impossible to root for him, if not for the humanizing touches Johnson deftly applies to him. Michael, fully aware of the shady business of which he partakes, isn’t able to shake off traumas as easily as so many other of cinema’s corrupt cops. In fact, he cries often when something terrible happens, and it is this which saves him and allows us to continue to follow Michael and even risk rooting for him.

Despite such uncommon flourishes, Hyena is overall pretty run of the mill. (A stand out element, though, is the score by British group The The, which climaxes in heart-pounding form in the film’s final moments.) It doesn’t dare break new ground. None of the characters are earth shattering new additions to the crooked police genre. And though the ending leaves itself open to interpretation, it’s rather disappointing. At the moment Johnson is most primed to answer questions about Michael’s character, he begs off, opting instead to let viewers decide for themselves. It’s not the right choice for the film, not when the moment is all about a crucial decision Michael must make. Hyena is more of the same, though serviceable in just about every way.

Author rating: 5.5/10

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