"Hyena" feels like a throwback to the tough-as-nails British gangster flicks of the 1970s: The unrepentant crooked cop at the film's center seems redeemable only relative to the merciless criminals who cross him and the weaselly colleagues who frame him.
Peter Ferdinando plays Michael Logan, a narcotics officer who has sunk 100,000 British pounds into a Turkish smugglers' route. When two Albanian brothers (Orli Shuka and Gjevat Kelmendi) who dabble in both human and drug trafficking brutally sabotage his plan, Michael negotiates a deal with them — and who knows whether it's to exact revenge or just to recover his capital?
Meanwhile, a reassignment plucks Michael from his rogue squad and forces him to report to his nemesis (Stephen Graham). Another enemy at work (Richard Dormer) stakes out Michael's home and threatens to expose his extracurricular activities.
As Michael infiltrates the Albanians' lair, he unwittingly triggers the sale of a woman (Elisa Lasowski) into prostitution. His efforts to save her seem like a momentary lapse into humanity, but that's enough for viewers to invest emotionally in this otherwise coldhearted tale.
Although the grim plot recalls noir classics such the 1971 Michael Caine film "Get Carter," the moody slow motion and electric hues of "Hyena" suggest neo-noir influences by the likes of Nicolas Winding Refn.
Writer-director Gerard Johnson resists all impulses to please the crowd. The graphic sex and violence never feel gratuitous, and there's something interesting in the way he deliberately denies his characters and the viewers any reprieve.
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 52 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood. Also on VOD.