Hyena

Superior British crime thriller

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Much has been made of the strong work done in recent years by British filmmakers like Peter Strickland, Ben Wheatley and Jonathan Glazer.

Between them, they favour a certain heightened, sensory type of filmmaking – rich in metaphor and explicitly tied to the experimental cinema of the Sixties and Seventies.

Gerard Johnson, meanwhile, is pursuing a different agenda. His two films – Tony and Hyena – are both gruelling thrillers, set in London’s less salubrious districts. Both are scored by the director’s brother, The The’s Matt Johnson, and both feature the same lead actor, their cousin, Peter Ferdinando.

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In Tony, Ferdinando played a serial killer stalking Bethnal Green; in Hyena, he plays Michael Logan, a policeman who employs violence indiscriminately and abuses his authority to take a cut from local gangs. Ferdinando plays Logan with commendable restraint, and even allows us to glimpse what remains of his moral code: he will not tolerate violence against women, particularly.

Hyena takes place in starkly lit nightclubs, grotty pubs and council flats, with Turkish gangs competing with their Albanian rivals for drug routes and prostitution rings.

In many respects, it operates like a sobering counterpoint to the early Noughties Brit crime flicks; but also the largely repugnant tranche of straight-to-video gangster films that propagate an especially brutal, geezerish type of violence.

Accordingly, there is little daylight in Hyena: the action largely occurs at night, and when scenes do take place during Logan’s office hours they have the clammy, hungover feel.

Matt Johnson’s score offers occasional bursts of dissonance and reverb-heavy loops. Gerard Johnson, meanwhile, brings a documentarian’s eye to the proceedings: even when a key character is disembowelled with a kebab knife, the filmmaker remains dispassionate.

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