When we first meet Michael (Peter Ferdinando) and his gang, we see that they are preparing some sort of raid, putting on bullet-proof jackets and loading up with guns and clubs. They enter a club by the back door, being let in by a woman who quickly leaves down the alleyway.
They rapidly go inside the club and start hitting men right and left. They are having fun terrorizing the people in the club, going so far as to spray a fire extinguisher at them. They take the drugs and money that are stored in the club and head back to an apartment to celebrate. Taking lots of drugs and drinking a lot, they start talking, and we soon realize that these four men aren’t your ordinary thugs, they are cops.
Everyone plays by the rules of the street, and Michael thinks he has figured out how to profit from it. Unfortunately for him, Michael’s world is turned upside when the gang he was working with has been knocked off, and now he has to make nice with a new gang, What’s worked for Michael in the past just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
“Hyena” is a gritty, stylish British crime drama from writer/director Gerard Johnson. Johnson has created a world where no one lives by the rules, and you live life like this day may be your last, because there is a good chance, it is. Other than a woman (Elisa Lasowski) who works for the mob and Michael tries to rescue, there isn’t a likable person in the film. The opening scenes in the club set a tone for the film, as the film goes into slow motion, the principals bathed in a blue light as the electronic music plays on the film soundtrack. Johnson has a good feel for setting the camera in interesting positions, making most of the film compelling to watch.
The strength of this film is in its lead actor as Peter Ferdinando gives a masterful performance of the too smart for his own good Michael. Fernando commands the screen and gives it everything he has into the role. It’s an amazing achievement because it’s hard to make a character you don’t like sympathetic, but Fernando has so much charisma on the screen that he accomplishes it. He gives us hints that his character, unlike the other cops, just might have a bit of compassion deep inside.
The cinematography by Benjamin Kracum is outstanding in this film. The lighting, most of which has that aforementioned smoky blue hue, is striking and completely adds to the mood of the film. The film is also helped by a score by the veteran British band The The, setting the mood of the film perfectly.
While I liked the look of the film and loved Ferdinando’s performance, I didn’t like the rest of the film’s characters. Except for Michael, every character seemed very cliche: the prostitute with a heart of gold who needs rescuing, the mod thugs who are brutes, the corrupt police. There isn’t much creativity in these characters, bringing what could have been a great film down. I also did not like the abrupt “Art House Film” ending that left me feeling robbed.
“Hyena” is a stylish looking, ultra-violent film that doesn’t quite do service to its look and the abilities of its leading man, letting us down in the end. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Hyena” is playing in Atlanta exclusively at the Plaza Theatre
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