Gerard Johnson's Hyena is a stylish, gritty crime drama that tells the story of Michael, a London police officer, who along with his team, keeps tabs on the most violent drug traffickers in the city. Michael is a dirty police officer, who isn't above taking a cut from the criminals he is tasked with enforcing, but when Michael finds his under-the-table dealings threatened by recent changes both in the police force and on the streets, with the emerging Albanian and Turkish gangs seizing control of the drug trade, Michael is forced to shift his loyalties dramatically, content with doing whatever it takes, including selling out his former allies, in order to stay alive. Gerard Johnson's Hyena may be a familiar corrupt policeman narrative but thanks to skilled direction and a great sense of atmosphere, Hyena separates itself enough from other similar films, being a dark, brooding descent into the criminal underbelly of London. Shot with uncompromising pessimism, Hyena is a film that understands the importance of establishing the seedy world which its characters inhabit, with Gerard Johnson's using well crafted establishing shots which vary from standard still compositions to elaborate tracking shots, each of which soak up the seedy, busy streets which our corrupt police officer inhabits. One of the most interesting aspects of Hyena is its ability to evoke the tribalism which exists in this seedy world, where lines are drawn in the sand among these various factions of cops and criminals, where the status quo of shady-deals, buyouts, and protection money have breeded a frugal system of expectations, with the law itself being a pragmatic framework as to which these cops and robbers operate. Hyena doesn't shy away from the brutality of the world, rather it embraces it, intent on being a film that reveals the barbarianism and tribalism which runs rampant. One could argue that Hyena is a film about the conflict between tribalism and individualism, as the main protagonist, Michael, finds himself betraying his proverbial tribe in an effort to save his own skin, clashing against the codes which exist even within the cops/criminals paradigm, with his inherent selfishness and will survive supplanting any such criminal alliances. While Michael does find himself wrestling with his own morality as he falls deeper and deeper into this world, he isn't exactly an empathetic character, something which barely exists in this film at all. The only character who is empathetic in the entire film is Arianna, a female character, who is stuck in-between the corrupt cops and drug dealers of the London underbelly, physically and emotionally abused by both sides as they jockey for power. Featuring impressionistic lighting and heavy dose of handheld photography to bring this seedy world to life, Gerard Johnson's Hyena is an ultraviolet, brooding experience which exhibits the moral ambiguity, tribalism, and inherent selfishness which makes up the seedy London crime scene.
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