Film review: Hyena (12A)

Hyena'EIFF opening film 2014

Hyena'EIFF opening film 2014

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THE 68th Edinburgh International Film Festival kicked off with a whimper tonight as the world premiere of Hyena unspooled at the city’s Festival Theatre.

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FESTIVAL THEATRE

The let down wasn’t for the smart attire or celebrity attendees, for which there were plenty, but for the film itself, which encapsulated the well-used phrase “style over substance”.

Police officer Michael (Peter Ferdinando) has always been one step ahead, both in terms of clamping down on crime, and using the murky world of drugs and trafficking to turn a tidy profit. That all changes, however, when he crosses paths with a ruthless gang of Albanians and his once forceful hold slowly starts to ebb away.

Stating its arrival defectively with a dialogue-free opening, the visual style at play throughout Hyena is at first distracting, but as the narrative presses on, it becomes clear that it’s simply being used as a way of masking the lack of substance underneath. The film is as predictable as they come, with all the major twists and turns signposted from early on.

Ferdinando delivers a perfectly nuanced performance as Michael, yet his character is by far the most fleshed out of any, with the rest sidelined to mere caricatures. The music, like the visuals, over-emphasizes every little thing, and the less said about the ambiguous and infuriating end the better.

There’s a lot to be said about directors that can bring something new to the tried-and-tested British crime-thriller genre, but sadly Gerard Johnson isn’t due much praise in that respect. His is a film that’s not without the occasional merit, but more often than not a concoction of well-polished cinematography without any meat to make it worth something.

As for an opening to a festival still in the recovery stage, Hyena isn’t the best of choices.

But, with 11 days of films yet to come, there’s still hope that Chris Fujiwara and his team have come up with one or two films worth watching.

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