Showing: Wednesday 18 June // 21:05 @ Festival Theatre
Director: Gerard Johnson
Starring: Peter Ferdinando, Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell
Running Time: 112 minutes
Your mother always warned you drugs were bad, but in director Gerard Johnson’s Hyena things have grown to epidemic proportions. London, 2014 and the drug business is no longer purely a domestic pursuit; gangs from all over Europe are looking to expand their empires and these are not the kind of people who like to share. Coke, blood and drain cleaner flow freely through the city streets and some Metropolitan Police issue footwear is getting more than a little dirty.
Hyena is grisly tale of drugs, sex and murder and – like your cinema ticket – it all comes at a price. Starred Up’s Peter Ferdinando is Michael Logan, the corrupt cop who finds himself in the unfortunate position of being smack bang in the middle of the drug trade just as everything kicks off. With a bung in his pocket, coke up his nose and his boss breathing down his neck, you could be mistaken for thinking you had wandered into a repeat screening of John S Baird’s Filth – but only momentarily. For although neither film attempts to show the British police in a particularly flattering light, Johnson’s Hyena is an entirely more odious affair.
While the creative thinking behind the overseas origins (Turkish and Albanian) of the film’s two main drug trafficking groups is perhaps up for debate, the unbearably stereotypical manner in which they are then portrayed is downright inexcusable. Yes, these are drug dealers who occasionally dabble in the sale and prostitution of vulnerable women, but why exactly do they have to constantly display their country’s flag or break out into traditional dance in order to do so? Hyena could almost be considered useful propaganda for certain incendiary UK political parties in this respect – ignorantly equating ethnicity with acts of illegality and violence.
On a similarly sickening note, the depiction of women in Hyena is, put simply, abhorrent. They are helpless victims, playthings, property or complicit saps, whose back stories need no further explanation beyond that which revolves around the male leads. In what is almost certain to be the film’s most controversial scene, one such victim is seen being raped – in graphic and quite frankly voyeuristic detail entirely unnecessary for the progression of the plot.
Despite a compelling turn from Ferdinando as the overly-ambitious Logan, Hyena itself seems destined to remain a wannabe movie. Too many good filmmakers (Abel Ferrara and William Friedkin to name but two) have already perfected the depiction of police corruption for this upstart to even get a look in. Revelling in its own excess, Hyena bangs its fists and attempts to shout the loudest – most misogynistic and hateful – vitriol in order to gain our attention. Do yourself a favour: keep your head down, your hands clean, and give this one a miss.