This Gerard Johnson directed film has been selected for the opening gala at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival and it will certainly make a more memorable impression than last year’s selection- Breathe In -which I could not recall without checking my archives. Starring Peter Ferdinando, who gives a convincingly ever more desperate performance in the lead role as rookie policeman Michael Logan, it is a film which despite its dark subject matter and moments of extreme brutality gives itself occasional moments to breathe and take stock.
This is never more apparent than in its opening nightclub sequence which has the effect of being underwater gasping for breath whilst having hallucinatory visions. It is all ethereal lighting and slow motion movements combined with frantic panic. For the viewer this is unsettling and when it suddenly switches to a more comprehensive setting that confusion initially remains as it becomes clear that the perpetrators of the violent attack we have just witnessed are in fact policemen.
The film deals mainly with the corruption at the heart of Logan’s team and their willingness to conspire with hardened criminals who deal in drugs, sex slavery and human trafficking in order to further their police careers whilst also making money out of protecting criminals and turning a blind eye as and when it suits them. Certainly there are moments when the police appear to be more reprehensible than the villains but the sheer brutality and willingness of the latter to butcher and maim anything which stands in their way horrifies Logan and he realises they must be taken to task.
However matters are not helped by the fat that he himself is under investigation by an old nemesis who is willing to frame him for a murder he did not commit. With this additional pressure on him whilst his perpetual drug taking and drinking reach higher and higher levels of consumption matters only become increasingly muddied. The murder of an old friend and colleague right in front of him only exacerbates the problem and suddenly matters accelerate and reach crisis point.
Hyena is a powerfully resonating film which gathers its own momentum and uses pacing to great effect. Ferdinando gives and inspiring performance which perspires, frustrates and lends credibility to a complex character who is as brutally ruthless as he is compassionate whilst his supporting cast all turn in credible performances also. Johnson’s direction is skilful and the cinematography is stark combined with dreamlike tranced out moments. A stunning soundtrack by The The’s Matt Johnson only adds to the dynamic of what makes this a credible opener for this years festival. Unlike last year’s opener which meandered along unobtrusively and was then easily forgotten Hyena has several moments- and issues- which will stay with you long after the credits roll!

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