#Tribeca 2015 Remainders: Democrats in Zimbabwe, Albert Maysles on Amtrak

04/29/2015 9:15 AM |


Directed by Gerard Johnson

Even if it’s the latest in a very long tradition of British festival-circuit crime dramas with headlining performances from hungover-looking men, Gerard Johnson’s Hyena is just haunting enough to linger in memory after the fact. Peter Fernandino stars as plainclothes cop Michael Logan, one of a crooked gang of narcotics officers who revel in their drug busts with A Clockwork Orange-worthy aplomb; right out the gate, Johnson’s film establishes a certain verisimilitude of onscreen punishment that makes perfect sense given the clinical, throbbing techno soundtrack and official Nicolas Winding Refn endorsement. But the film’s appetite for phantasmagorical realism is in service of an initially weak plot: two unstoppable Albanian brothers begin to impede on the West London drug networks that are Logan’s bread and butter, hacking one of his Turkish contacts to pieces while he’s hiding out in the poor bastard’s warehouse. (Hyena has the decency—or is it cowardice?—to cut to its antihero’s face as he moans in aghast reaction instead of showing the main event, desperately keeping men’s ugliest horrors just a hair offscreen.)

For me a basic complaint resurfaced across Hyena’s 112 minute runtime: Logan’s inner life is utterly untouched by the film’s screenplay, as if another bump of cocaine or a glaring look from his long-suffering girlfriend (MyAnna Buring) will be enough to turn Logan into a fully fleshed-out character. Eventually he strikes up a kind of paranoid kinship with a woman trafficked by the Albanians (Elisa Lasowski), and his attempt to extricate her from them serves as a redemption vehicle that’s as pat as it is withholding. The dourness of Johnson’s aesthetic easily curdles into self-seriousness, choking the film of real energy; plot potentialities are rerouted for the purposes of another, more important character being hacked to pieces, revealing—not for the first time—that Hyena ultimately has the priorities of a slasher picture as much (if not more) than those of a mystery or character study. But even so, there’s much to savor, including inspired, slow-burning supporting turns from Steven Graham and Richard Dormer as, respectively, an old colleague and internal-affairs nemesis of Logan’s. And hey, at least the neon isn’t CGI.

Opening this Friday, May 1 at Cinema Village.

One Comment

  • What’s ironic about this hackneyed “taut, riveting, bravua, gripping, pulse-pounding, hard-boiled, a roller coaster of emotion” comment: pther than riveting, none of these adjectives actually apply to this documentary. What you are describing sounds like the form, shape and pace of a Paul Greengrass film and Nielsson’s movie has none of that energy or pulse. Mind you it’s still great, but this is just like word vomit?