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Review: Hyena

Hyena
04.29.2015
8 10
 

PLOT: A crooked London cop (Peter Ferdinando) loses 100k in a drug deal gone sour. Now, he not only has to contend with a gang of Albanian drug/human traffickers, but also with an investigation within his own department that’s aimed at putting him and his corrupt team behind bars.

REVIEW: I know what you’re thinking – another corrupt cop yarn? Hasn’t this already been done to death? I’ll admit, I was skeptical going into HYENA that it would be anything more than a passable genre exercise, but the fact that it played to such acclaim at TIFF 2014 and is coming off a solid run at the Tribeca Film Festival had me intrigued.

 

While the premise certainly isn’t anything new, what distinguishes HYENA from its brethren, specifically from the increasingly low-rent British crime yarns that are churned out ad nauseum, is the style director Gerard Johnson has instilled in every frame. While press releases pegging this as Abel Ferrera meets Nicholas Refn might be setting the bar a bit high, HYENA is definitely a compact, taut little thriller and a tour da force for Johnson’s sense of style and star Peter Ferdinando.

It’s clear from the get-go that Ferdinando’s Michael is a cop in the Vic Mackey-mode, maybe even worse. The film starts off with a highly stylized drug bust filmed impressionistically with The The’s pulsating score filling the soundtrack and nary a word spoken. We see Michael and his police pals pocket cash, and dig into some of the seized coke while dancing to Sylvester’s ‘Do You Wanna Funk?’ They seem more like coked-up, racist frat boys than cops, but these are our “heroes” and HYENA doesn’t shy away from their unpleasantness.

While other crooked cop tales would typically humanize the hero, Ferdinando’s more or less a thug throughout, but his performance is absolutely compelling in that he’s able to hint at a somewhat suppressed sense of humanity. The closest he comes to being a “hero” is a side plot where he rescues an Albanian woman from traffickers, even though it’s his actions that put her at risk and her well-being is clearly only second in his mind to getting a leg up on the villains he’d rather do business with than bust – despite them being utterly despicable.

 

Ferdinando’s supported by a strong roaster of English toughies, including Ben Wheatley-favorite Neil Maskell as a particularly cokey cop on the payroll. The best is probably BOARDWALK EMPIRE’s Stephen Graham as the incredibly shady DI, who’s got an axe to grind as Michael almost put him away years before after catching him with an underage girl. Anyone who only knows Graham from his American work will be stunned at his thick English brogue and he’s excellent as always. He has some absolutely dynamite scenes with Ferdinando, including a bit where they try to bury the hatchet over a few pints and a particularly tense exchange late in the game with the Albanian villains.

As good as the actors are, what makes HYENA really exceptional is the strong cinematography by Benjamin Kracum, which makes it look moody without ever being derivative, and the excellent score by veteran UK band The The, which ranks among the best of the year so far. While HYENA’s a pretty nasty piece of work with an ending that will piss-off many viewers, it’s a pretty strong indie from the UK and definitely something that should put Johnson and Ferdinando on the map in a big way. If this hits VOD or your local art-house theater, I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out.

Source: JoBlo.com

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