Coke snorting detectives, the grim realities of human trafficking, a genuinely horrific stabbing, graphic scenes of human butchery by shirtless Albanian thugs and a policeman executed at point blank range in the woods – Avengers The Age of Ultron this ‘aint, and I respect it for that.
Peter Ferdinando plays Michael, a corrupt, drug addled London detective who barely does anything that is legal. He’s basically Britain’s answer to Vic Mackey from The Shield and just like Vic Mackey, Michael heads up his own special team, an uglier and even more meat-headed version of the strike team from Farmington.
In the opening act, after beating up some underground ravers with a fire extinguisher, Michael is forced to take refuge in a storeroom and watch whilst his Turkish, drug dealing associate is bludgeoned to death by a pair of bloodthirsty, machete wielding Albanians. These grim faced, hot-headed brothers are the new players in town and they’re taking over. With his former business partner despatched, Michael doesn’t waste any time striking up a deal with the Albanian gangsters, promising to give them protection in exchange for a cut of their profits. But things get complicated when Michael is separated from his team and put under the command of an old adversary, David Knight, played by Combo from This is England, aka Stephen Graham. Knight himself appears very clean cut to begin with, but it soon emerges that he has a pretty shady past too, and it seems that some shit had previously gone down between him and Michael, making it hard for them to trust each other. Eventually Michael takes Knight to a meeting with the Albanians, but as it turns out, Knight is trying to set Michael up with a view to having him kicked off the force. I won’t give too much away, but things don’t exactly go smoothly.
There’s a clear (and in my view, welcome) similarity to The Shield as I’ve mentioned (I was a big fan of that show) but Hyena takes the darkness and the grittiness to another level entirely. The film makers have exceeded themselves in creating a bleak and thoroughly depressing world where the distinctions between the good guys and the bad guys are difficult to draw. In fact I’d have to say that there are no good guys in this movie. The closest thing to a good guy is taken to the woods and shot in the head. Betrayals and brutality abound. The main character isn’t even very heroic, hiding and running away when necessary.
The tension is relieved occasionally by some good old fashioned British humour. Upon being faced with conclusive evidence of his transgressions, one member of Michael’s team produces a pocket diary in which he’s recorded every one of their crimes in readiness for this very circumstance, claiming that Michael bullied him into going along with everything and adding that he’ll be seeking compensation for the emotional stress he’s been put through.
The big problem for me though was the ending. The film builds up to what should have been an amazingly violent and satisfying climax, but then, frustratingly, it ends and cuts to the credits before we get to see what happens. Although I enjoyed the film, I felt cheated.
I’ve been wrestling with whether to give this 7 or 8 out of 10, and thinking about that ending I was leaning towards a 7, but fuck it, I’m going to say 8 out of 10 – it’s definitely worth checking out.