Magazine article Screen International

Hyena

Magazine article Screen International

Hyena

Article excerpt

Dir/scr: Gerard Johnson. UK. 2014. 112mins

Visually arresting and brutally slick, writer-director Gerard Johnson's second feature Hyena is a tough crime thriller that, while it may not be for the faint-hearted, is made with control and real skill, featuring a great soundtrack (and impressive sound design) and a great sense of its gritty West London locations. More Bad Lieutenant than 22 Jump Street, this police thriller is a tough watch, but confirms Johnson as a rising cinematic talent.

Gerard Johnson is trying to put his own mark on a much-filmed genre.

The opening night of the Edinburgh International Film Festival - in truth an odd choice given its abundant violence and drug-taking, never too popular with black-tie wearing sponsors - it needs smart distributors to make the best of it, and while the cast is relatively low key (most are well known UK television performers) it could well also appeal to genre festivals.

Johnson again casts his cousin Peter Ferdinando in the lead role (as he did in his debut feature Tony), impressively playing a corrupt London detective who finds himself way out of his depth when he comes up against a brutal pair of Albanian brothers who were bloodily taking over the local crime scene. The film has a clever enigmatic quality as this anti-hero sets about looking after himself - it is never clear whether he is a drug-fuelled coward or a reluctant hero, with things getting even more complex as the film heads towards its bloody resolution.

Forget the fluffy and romantic West London area of Notting Hill as seen in the much-loved rom-com of the same name. For Hyena the area is a hotbed of gangland violence, human trafficking and police corruption.

The film opens in suitably off-kilter fashion with tough-looking Michael Logan (Ferdinando) taking a call, and then driving into the night to pick with three equally brutish looking types (Neil Maskell, Tony Pitts and Gordon Brown). Putting on police stab vests and caps, they are let into the back door or a nightclub and set about beating up the guys running the place. Initially it is easy to assume they are fake cops, but after handcuffing the men and helping themselves to cash and drugs it is clear they are cops of the corrupt variety.

After witnessing a nasty murder of a Turkish drug dealer he was planning on going into business with, Michael finds himself up against ruthless Albanian brothers Nikolla (Orli Shuka) and Rezar (Gjevat Kelmendi) who committed the killing and are switching from prostitution and human trafficking into the drugs trade. …

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