Hyena (2014) is a cut above the average London gangster flick all the same. Gerard Johnson's sophomore feature might look on the outset like the type of London crime thriller usually populated by Jason Statham, but it's more emotionally complex than its outset gives it credit for.
Johnson has a cool eye for shots: an opening slow-motion drugs bust, alongside ultra-violence, dream-like sequences and electronic music from The The might bring about comparisons with Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (2011). Its closest competitor might be Daniel Wolfe's Catch Me Daddy (2014) which also captured violence in a film with an aesthetic sensibility. Hyena's issues lie in a smattering of clichéd character types - women are ciphers, Albanians are brutish thugs - and personalities are rarely well developed. It's unfortunate, as Ferdinando does such a good job capturing the scrappy, scavenging titular cop, but even Stephen Graham's role as Michael's former partner is reduced to describing their relationship awkwardly to the audience through conversation. Yet Johnson is adept at carrying all the baggage that come with such a meaty thriller, and the concluding tragedy comes across with a novelistic sensibility. While its ending does feel a little like a cop-out, the overall structure is innovative, and you'd imagine that Johnson has a good career ahead.
This review was originally published on 18 June, 2014 as part of our coverage of the Edinburgh Film Festival.
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★★★☆☆ The Square
★★★☆☆ 120 Beats Per Minute
★★★☆☆ Jupiter's Moon
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