Gerard Johnson

BY Robert BellPublished Sep 16, 2014

In the myopic world according to Hyena, Gerard Johnson's second feature-length film, women are mostly just passive whores waiting to be rescued by big, brooding, morally conflicted (read, facile) men. But only whores that seem like they could do math or something equally novel (like do dishes and perform fellatio simultaneously) should be rescued, whereas the ones that run around with their tits out should be treated like the garbage they are.

This is the sort of world often portrayed in British crime films, which presumably continue to flood the marketplace (and discount DVD bins) because of a faulty welfare system that rewards mid-adolescence people with steady pay for doing absolutely nothing, save some occasionally crafty criminal enterprise. There's also the motivator of good old-fashioned racism, which presents itself in Hyena when Michael (Peter Ferdinando), an undercover cop, gets wrapped up in a drug turf war between the Turks and the Albanians, which involves routine dismemberment and, as previously mentioned, an abundance of interchangeable fully-nude women.

Michael, despite snorting cocaine 24/7 and responding to workplace conflict by pissing on people in the restroom, has a heart of gold underneath his nauseatingly generic surly disposition; he's just misunderstood. We know this because he seems to really care about fighting the war on drugs and makes an effort to rescue Ariana (Elisa Lasowski) from the giant, idiosyncratic (one of them uses an emery board on his feet; how kooky!), serial-killing Albanian criminals that occasionally slap her around and cut her.

When Hyena isn't taking itself far too seriously with expository dialogue that essentially just reiterates that every cop involved in the drug trade operates in various shades of grey, it's preoccupied with gratuitous violence. Johnson, knowing that the sort of gauche stylization that someone like Guy Ritchie might crap out is passé, merely slows things down during these moments so we can really appreciate the raw edginess of people being brutally maimed. It's not pointed nor does it really serve as any sort of commentary beyond the obvious "this is what immigration does, kids" routine, but it does reiterate the notion that, to Johnson, sensationalized excess is the only way to communicate a point.

Worse is that the limited humour presented is the sort of broad, dreadfully simplistic rhetoric that reiterates the same rudimentary dread of difference and antiquated values present in the already derivative plot. It's gay jokes and fat jokes, mainly because the only thing more terrifying and hilariously confusing than different cultures is the sheer audacity of anyone not spending their life trying to be exactly like everyone else.

Somewhere within is a cursory observation about the parallels between criminal enterprise and policing, or at least the inherent paradox created by trying to extricate oneself from moral ambiguity from within, but more often than not, Hyena is just an onslaught of excruciatingly solipsistic, traditionalist, conservative male values. If it weren't so unbelievably stupid, it might be offensive.
(Film 4)

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