Rotten to the Core
by Brody Rossiter
Here upon England’s green and pleasant shores, crime dramas are something of speciality. We know what we’re doing when it comes to producing grimy operatic fables that draw upon a vast lineage of celebrated law-breaking storytelling. Gerard Johnson’s Hyena is one such predatory tale; a ruthless neon-infused excursion through the very worst our cities have to offer.
Michael Logan (Peter Ferdinando) is a policeman, who, alongside his close-knit team of West London drug squad rascals, immerses himself in various forms of corruption and substance abuse. When a group of immigrant Albanian gangsters arrive in the capital, Michael’s unscrupulous and highly-profitable arrangements are placed in a serious state of jeopardy by this uncompromisingly brutal new breed of criminal.
After his ties with a Turkish crime operation are quite literally severed by the Albanians – a hostile takeover depicted in a particularly vicious and disturbing manner – Michael elects to forge a new uneasy alliance with the Eastern Europeans as a means of recovering the vast sum of money he sunk into a drug-running route.
The picture ripples and vibrates with unsettling, dreamlike Winding-Refn-esque visuals. Handheld cameras watchfully follow characters as close-up shots of their heads pull out to the reveal dens of iniquity littered with drugs, tooled-up goons and topless trafficked girls. Johnson’s vision is extreme, softened only by the black humour exchanged by Michael and his crooked unit – Tony Potts’ heavily tattooed and unashamedly racist ‘Keith’ often acting as the primary source of such disquieting conversation. Ferdinando’s wonderfully balanced and emotionally invested portrayal of Michael is undeniably engaging as he rubs shoulders and shares lines (verbally and otherwise) with a diverse array of depraved individuals while gradually spiralling out of control.
Hyena is a lurid and messy picture filled with violent nastiness and heinous crime, yet its attention to detail is meticulous. The wonderfully diverse and oppressive score provided by veteran UK band, The The (Johnson’s brother Matt is a member of the cult group) summons much of the pictures seedy and muscular tone; an invaluable musical offering that you will seek after the credits roll.
Packing fluid storytelling, a superb cast and a typically British commitment to style, Hyena takes a rich heritage of filmmaking and forms it into a unique and modern snarling cinematic beast.