The hunter becomes the hunted in this tense crime thriller. Forget dramatic monologues, preposterous characters and outrages car chases – Hyena takes a bleaker, stark look at the underworld – and is all the better for it.
Peter Ferdinando plays Michael Logan, head of a drug squad assigned to investigate trafficking in Eastern European gangs. They aren’t just your typical cops of course, oh no, they operate on a more ‘catch drug traffickers, beat them senseless, snort all their coke’ wavelength. Michael has invested a lot of money in a smuggling route operated by a Turkish gang, until they are brutally taken over by their Albanian rivals. When his squad is tasked with investigating the gang, Michael must try and get his money back while simultaneously keeping the gang and his superior officer happy. Perhaps the story itself lacks originality, but instead it focuses on its characters, their emotions and what it feels like to be trapped in an endless cycle of deceit and crime.
It isn’t all doom and gloom however. Michael’s squad mates provide the film with a very crass, laddish sense of humour. A brash trio, Keith, Chris and Martin wouldn’t be out of touch in A Clockwork Orange.
But looking behind the plot, we see a man struggling for air as he slips further and further away from safety. We watch helplessly as Michael loses control of his emotions as his world starts to crumble around him. Perhaps it’s this feeling of helplessness that sees him attempting to rescue the pretty Ariana from the depths of human trafficking. An attempt to do some good in the world, the way a supposed policeman like him should. The viewer can question his virtues throughout the film but you get a sense that Michael himself is doing exactly the same thing.
It’s an impressive display by Ferdinando, whose permanently bleary-eyed performance is very solid throughout. He’s also the cousin of director Gary Johnson and starred in a previous film of Johnson’s – the 2012 flick, Tony. Backed by a darkly seductive soundtrack and constantly contrasting visuals, the film shows itself to be well ahead of its peers.
What raises Hyena above the multitude of British crime dramas is that it does its level best to avoid falling into a cliche ridden action flick. It takes the viewer deep into the murky waters of human trafficking, rape and ultra-violence, and does so with a gritty style that suits the mood perfectly. It’s unflinching in what it forces you to see, whether you want to or not. More importantly, it’s a call to arms for other crime dramas that they need to raise their game if they want to compete. Hyena is a much watch.