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Manuel de Layet [Celluloid 09.24.14] United Kingdom horror thriller

[Be sure to check out a slightly different take from our EIFF coverage]

Human trafficking, drugs, violence, female torture and rape. Seedy underground is a trite denomination for the setting of Hyena since it radiates the same nauseating feeling as Gerard Johnson's previous feature Tony; it's like finding a crusted menstrual pad at the back of the bathroom trashcan.

Given the usual stereotype of the French/English relations throughout the ages, having a Brit claim his love of our film-making is not something you encounter everyday. An even rarer occurrence is when said Brit takes to himself to direct a "French thriller," and of course succeed in doing so in ways we have seldom managed ourselves in the past few years.

There's an amusing side to most European movie making. The cultural identity of a movie is easily recognizable by the grain and lighting. At a glance you can differentiate German/French/British productions. The London setting and English language are here the only thing that don't scream "baguette" at the audience. Lighting and frame are of that documentary approach that's one of the trademarks of the French school of thrillers. One other definitely French constant is an obsession for procedural accuracy, not a wonder we have adapted Ed McBain works often, nor a surprise given the actual police background of most of our writers/directors in the genre (see Marchal for a recent one).

I won't play the name the reference game with this one since, given the extent of the references, it would get rather tedious.

The characterization on the line of "there are two type of criminals, those with a warrant card (or for our friends from the colonies: badge) and the others" is on the other hand so universal this century that you will find it everywhere from Pelecanos to Bruen.

I love when a director consciously tries to alienate a fair section of his possible audience by putting subtitled Eastern European languages as a relevant plot element. This, of course, also cements his version of London into a concrete cosmopolitan setting while further alienates the thematic of a deliquescence of the Western European culture leaving the doors open for the carrion eaters. This isn't called Hyena for nothing.

It is to be noted that I didn't see the last twelve minutes because dying of a ruptured bladder in the middle of a movie theatre, while a good publicity stunt, is not a dignified way to go. But that's of no consequence, there's something on an impending doom at the point where I left that is worth treasuring. While European culture may be dying, this clearly is one of our remaining flashes of brilliance before oblivion.

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