Hyena review

The grim blue line.

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Scratchy and savage, Hyena is long on squalor and short on polish, but made with genuine conviction.

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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.

More info

Theatrical release6 March 2015
DirectorGerard Johnson
Starring"Peter Ferdinando","Stephen Graham","Neil Maskell","Elisa Lasowski","MyAnna Buring"
Available platformsMovie
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Freelance Writer

Matt Glasby is a freelance film and TV journalist. You can find his work on Total Film - in print and online - as well as at publications like the Radio Times, Channel 4, DVD REview, Flicks, GQ, Hotdog, Little White Lies, and SFX, among others. He is also the author of several novels, including The Book of Horror: The Anatomy of Fear in Film and Britpop Cinema: From Trainspotting To This Is England.