After winning stellar reviews for his directorial debut Tony, Gerard Johnson offers nothing less impressive in his second creation. Peter Ferdinando once again takes the lead in a significantly different role as unorthodox drug squad officer Michael Logan. Johnson and Ferdinando have such a clear affinity that it’s unlikely this will be the last time they’ll work together. If you can stomach the violence, this may be the best British film you’ll see this year. Oscar-fodder it is not, but it does bear the hallmarks of cult classic longevity.
The opening scene of a police raid has the choreographed beauty of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange. From here you can tell this isn’t your usual East End gangster flick. A superb, original soundtrack provided by The The contributes to the film’s consistent intensity. This is an impressive piece of cinema that will leave you longing for the completion of Johnson’s next project.
The subjects are familiar: a crooked policeman with a vague moral code; a deal that goes wrong; a situation snowballing wildly out of control. However, Hyena does not follow any pre-existing scripting model. Johnson, who also wrote the script, chooses to progress his story in whatever direction he sees fit, allowing for the unexpected at every turn.
Stephen Graham provides his usual flawless brand of brimming intensity. Every scene in which he is paired with Ferdinando is like waiting for a bomb to explode. Seeing Graham’s name on the cast list has become a quality guarantee, but the standard of acting from his counterparts is so high that Graham does not obviously outshine anyone. Special mention should go to the drug squad played by Gordon Brown, Neil Maskell and Tony Pitts. Their scenes of naturalistic dialogue are the stuff of Ken Loach’s dreams.
People trafficking and the resulting brothels are portrayed in horrific detail. Scenes of women being treated as meat are juxtaposed with scenes of young girls dancing at a family celebration. It’s not a new idea but it’s done expertly. An arrestingly realistic scene of sexual violence is difficult to watch but doesn’t feel gratuitous.
Hyena is an outstanding piece of cinema from an exciting new director not satisfied with his existing achievements. Johnson’s work is original, powerful and brilliant; he has even managed to weave an exceptionally black humour through a narrative that barely allows it. Hyena is British cinema at its dirty, nasty best.
Hyena is released nationwide on 6th March 2015.
Watch the trailer for Hyena here: