The grim blue line.
“Shoestring, Taggart, Spender, Bergerac, Morse. What does that say to you about regional detective series?” asked Alan Partridge. “There’s too many of them?” was the canny answer.
Writer/director Gerard Johnson’s second film adds another to the rap sheet: bent if not totally broken copper Peter Ferdinando, a beer-bellied bruiser who ripped up the rulebook a long time ago. To the credit of all concerned he isn’t called John Hyena, and the film – a gutter-crawl through a wretched twilit London – bucks as many clichés as it hits, refusing to titillate or even, really, thrill. The result may be difficult to sit through, but it’s equally hard to dismiss.
The first sequence shows Ferdinando and his men raiding a club and splitting the spoils. They’re so violent and coked-up it takes a while to realise that they are actually policemen; the moral difference between these “good guys” and the Albanian gangsters they’re involved with is cigarette-paper-thin.
Although it sounds like we’ve been here before, there’s something more going on. With a great kitchen-sink cast (particularly Game Of Thrones’ Richard Dormer), and a moral murk so fetid even Harvey Keitel’s Bad Lieutenant might consider bailing out, it feels sickeningly, mundanely real, like The Bill does Filth.
While Stephen Graham and Neil Maskell get meaty supporting roles, talented female actors MyAnna Buring and Elisa Lasowski get very short shrift, and pacing problems mean the film peaks at about the halfway point. But there’s genuine talent here, too – how else does Johnson keep us watching? Hyena may be grim, but it’s also grimly engrossing in a way that gets under the skin.