In Review: Hyena (2014)

by Chris Milton on 05/03/2015


Gerard Johnson’s London is a city much like Hell, and Hyena, his second film after the mordant, disturbing, dismembered-body-in-the-kitchen-sink drama Tony (2009), is a dark and bloody labyrinth which nobody gets out of alive. The plot is convoluted and amphetamine-paced, but is so tight and coherent that one does not lose its thread but is instead pulled along and down by it, appalled and spellbound, headlong through a violent, sleazy fever-dream.

Michael Logan (Peter Ferdinando) leads the Task Force, a four-man unit within the Met, and in the film’s brutal, oneiric opening, hypnotically scored by Matt Johnson, we see them raiding a nightclub, beating up its owners, and seizing money and coke, which they divvy up and party on. Post-debauch, Logan visits Cem (Philip Arditti) to discuss a new drug-route and witnesses the man being butchered by two machete-wielding thugs Nikolla (Orly Shula) and Rezar (Gjevat ‘Kel’ Kelmendi) Kabashi, who now possess the map of the drug-route. Logan pursues them to get the map back and becomes embroiled in an bloody, complicated world of clubs which double as brothels, and human trafficking. Logan is reassigned to a team led by David Knight (Stephen Graham), who has a grudge against Logan, and anti corruption unit leader Taylor, played by Richard Dormer, investigates the now-suspended task force.

Visually, the film has a grubby realism, out if which it is lifted by the bravura opening sequence and beautiful, saturated shots of a light-jewelled London at night, where its wretched ugliness is redeemed, and through its editing, many queasy tracking shots, its menacing electronic score, and hyper-economical script, a permanent state of tension is maintained.

Logan is a corrupt, opportunistic hedonist, but he has limits and humanity, if not a code. There is not a glint of glamour on anyone or anything in Hyena, and the police are so endemically corrupt that even the anti-corruption unit struggles with ethics. Gerard Johnson’s work reflects a system of universal exploitation, where everything and everyone is for sale, full of hyenas, feeding off the kills of other, more savage beasts.

Chris has awarded Hyena five Torches of Truth

5 torches

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