Movie review: "Hyena" howls at a bleak moon in cop tale

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

The UK crime drama "Hyena" opens with what appears to be an organized heist, as masked men ransack a nightclub, beating men and stealing drugs.

The men, of course, are police officers, lead by Michael (Peter Ferdinando), an undercover cop who is playing both sides of the game.

When Michael gets caught in the middle of drug smuggling involving rival Turks and Albanians in London, there will be blood.

Writer-director Gerard Johnson lays out "Hyena" as the sort of grim crime tale we've seen before - it's garnered comparisons to "Sexy Beast," though it's not really in that league.

It's not the first story of an undercover cop who gets his hands dirty, and it won't be the last, but, man, is this world grimy. The violence is brutal and unrelenting, and there's so much testosterone being thrown about, it was a relief when the story finally introduced a (non-stripper) female character. That good will is short lived, given what happens to the character.

"Hyena" also gets praise from "Drive" director Nicolas Winding Refn on its poster, but it actually has more in common with Refn's biggest misfire, "Only God Forgives."

If gritty is your thing, you've got plenty of it, but the ceaseless darkness gets depressing after a while, and "Hyena" doesn't carve any new territory.

Photo courtesy of Tribeca Film

"Hyena"

Opens Friday

2 1/2 stars out of 4