2009 saw the release of Gerard Johnson’s debut feature Tony. The gritty, low budget character study starring Peter Ferdinando was an impressive debut with some arresting scenes and a smattering of black comedy.
Following grittiness with more grittiness, Johnson’s second film, Hyena, sees the director and star reunite in a story of corrupt police, drugs, gangsters and human trafficking. Ferdinando plays Michael Logan, a dodgy copper who has his fingers firmly in the proverbial pies of the South London drug trade and doesn’t mind sampling the products himself.
Logan and his gaudy crew of police officers are introduced in a neon-drenched scene where they do their uttermost best to break as many of the laws they are meant to uphold as possible. The boys burst into a nightclub drug ring and proceed to beat the patrons, steal some class A and even let off a fire extinguisher without any sign of flames anywhere. Very naughty.
As the story progresses we quickly learn that Michael has invested 100 grand into a cocaine route run by a Turkish dealer. Just as quickly as we are introduced to this associate, two menacing Albanian brothers (Orli Shuka and Gjevat Kelmendi) then cut him up into tiny pieces, such is life in the seedy and illicit milieu that Johnson depicts. The combustible presence of the threatening and brutal Kabashi brothers sets the wheel in motion for a chaotic narrative that sees Michael trying to keep his decadent life in some sort of balance. Juggling issues with his police unit in the shape of his new supervisor (Stephen Graham) and an investigating officer (Richard Dormer) as well as trying to come to some agreement with the Kabashi brothers results in Michael’s world beginning to crumble around him and Ferdinando portrays this inner turmoil and pandemonium impeccably.
Perhaps the biggest triumph for Hyena is a stylistic one. The cinematography by Benjamin Kracun is visually striking, awash with incandescent neon and a melancholic, nocturnal nuance. This visual content is in turn complimented by Matt Johnson of The The, who provides an atmospheric and synth-laden soundtrack that encapsulates the brooding nature of the narrative. It is these factors that stop the film being an orthodox crime drama and add a degree of art house depth.
Hyena is an imposing second film from Johnson and he seems to have found a proven formula with Ferdinando as his gripping lead and Matt Johnson as his composer. By no means is it the most original of pieces, with clear influences from films like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive and Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, but despite this Hyena still has many of its own merits by presenting us with a vision of a societal underbelly rife with moral ambiguity, unflinching violence and a bunch of people you certainly wouldn’t invite over for tea…
Special Features: None
INFO: HYENA / 18 / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: GERARD JOHNSON / STARRING: PETER FERDINANDO, STEPHEN GRAHAM, NEIL MARSHALL, ORLI SHUKA, GJEVAT KELMENDI, RICHARD DORMER / RELEASE DATE: JULY 6TH