Film Review: HYENA (written & directed by Gerard Johnson / US premiere at Tribeca Film Festival)

Post image for Film Review: HYENA (written & directed by Gerard Johnson / US premiere at Tribeca Film Festival)

by Dmitry Zvonkov on April 26, 2015

in Film

HYENA DROPS ITS BALLS

Michael (a sympathetic Peter Ferdinando) is a coke-addled member of a violent four-man narcotics taskforce that goes about robbing, beating, intimidating, cooperating with, working for, and sometimes arresting drug gangs. But with internal affairs on his back, and having been put under the command of a former partner he’d fallen out with, Michael finds himself trying to save Ariana (Elisa Lasowski), a young Albanian sex slave, from the clutches of the vicious Kabashi brothers. A well-acted, taut, gritty, police-corruption thriller set in a British metropolis, Gerard Johnson’s Hyena does a fine job for a while of chasing two thematic balls—one that is consistent with its genre, and another that attempts to transcend it by exploring the nature and lifestyle of corrupt cops and Albanian and Turkish gangsters in England. In the end Hyena catches neither.

Peter Ferdinando as Michael Logan in HyenaCourtesy Tribeca Film

Mr. Johnson’s spectacle is captivating for about two-thirds of this 113 minute film. But with the filmmaker focusing on the what, while skimming over the why and the how, eventually we begin to suspect that rather than magic what we are seeing is some clever sleight of hand. The further the film progresses the more rushed it feels, its logic becoming more and more dubious. In principle, questionable plot elements can work if a film is about more than its story—which appears to be the movie Mr. Johnson is trying to make. Unfortunately, as a truthful and compelling observational study of its characters and milieu, Hyena doesn’t pan out, and its daring open ending falls flat.

Stephen Graham as David Knight in HyenaCourtesy Tribeca Film

photos © Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Peter Ferdinando as Michael Logan in HyenaCourtesy Tribeca Film

Hyena
A Film4 and BFI presentation
Lipsync LLP, Riggins Productions Limited, Number 9 Films
U.K. – 2014 – Color – 113 min.
US premiere at Tribeca Film Festival
for screening times, visit https://tribecafilm.com/filmguide/hyena-2015

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