Opening Edinburgh’s 68th International Film Festival is Gerard Johnson’s Hyena, a film that delves into the world of police corruption, oozing with misery and gore. We are first introduced to twisted policeman Michael Logan when he, with his gang of cronies in tow, raids a nightclub. This initial sequences creates a strong sense of what Hyena is all about; adrenaline, violence and drugs – all set to an outstanding soundtrack created by Matt Johnson. The film’s title paints a pretty clear image of the character’s we’re encountering and our protagonist is no real exception to the rest of the greed, racism and aggression he surrounded himself with. Back in the club, Michael and his merry men proceed to cause destruction and suffering. The dimly lit club and the pulsating beat of the film’s score enhance this trance-like scene. Hyena‘s opening succeeds in creating, for its audience, an idea of what these men’s drug-fuelled states feel like. This almost instantaneous placement of the audience, into the blurry minds of these ugly and unsettling characters, cleverly prepares us for the rest of the film, in which cocaine is never far from reach. Welcome to the world of Hyena: a hyper-masculine land where nobody can be trusted, least of all your friends. Keep your back against the wall at all times because, here, anyone could be willing to stab you in it. Michael never seems to sleep or eat; driven by alcohol and narcotics, he is almost a dead man walking.
On a mission to get back a large sum of money he invested in a drug smuggling venture, Michael must face some of the criminal underworld’s darkest creatures which leads him into a world of drugs, abuse and sex trafficking.The film moves at a consistently quick pace, pausing occasionally to really allow the audience to feel the pain and suffering of certain characters. Hyena is emotionally charged. Michael, in particular, is highly sensitive but disguises this behind a male bravado. Peter Ferdinando who has been a pleasant asset to many recent British productions such as A Field in England and Starred Up, gives an understated and rich performance as Michael, managing to get us on his character’s side, despite his flaws and faults. The rest of the film’s cast are pretty stable, with Stephen Graham being exceptionally strong and, typically, intense. The film’s music is by far one of its greatest elements. It has variety, drive and direction; remaining ambitious but without trying too hard and becoming a distraction. The film remains tense until its final moments, teasing the audience with an ending that is bold and well judged. Soaked in realism, Hyena is bound to open the festival with a real bang. Coolly directed, bravely acted and well accompanied by some chilling and original music, Hyena will shock with its bloody violence but satisfy with its refusal to back down from some pretty nasty subjects. This is Wheatley and Meadow’s type-territory and it is exciting to see fresh directors, such as Johnson, stepping up to the plate.
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