Peter Ferdinando is great as Michael Logan, a cop with his dirty fingers in a number of dirty pies. Logan's not all bad though, and it's to Ferdinando's and Johnson's credit that you find yourself sympathising with him even as he's hoovering gak off a coffee table with a pair of Albanian sex traffickers. But this is a film with a wilfully muddy sense of right and wrong: there are no good guys, only bad guys and worse guys. Hyena presents this concept as a matter of fact, and its relentlessly pessimistic view of the police is dramatically admirable, but while we boggle at these lawmen's somewhat unique application of the law we never really get under the skin of any of them.
These guys, on the other hand, are really getting under someone's skin.
As Logan sinks further into the deeply unpleasant world of people trafficking that he's supposed to be investigating and preventing, his loyalties are in constant flux, and as a result it becomes increasingly difficult to know who he can trust. His colleagues? Maybe. His new, suspiciously friendly operation leader? Probably not. The guy from Internal Affairs? Seriously doubtful. His tenuous grip on his own situation is constantly loosening, and watching Ferdinando unravel is half the fun: a late scene on a bus, in which he receives some potentially terrifying news, is a hilariously uncomfortable set-piece in an otherwise unremittingly bleak and ugly story.
But for all its intent on showing a scuzzy underbelly of the police that we rarely see in cinema, Hyena still ends up feeling like a late-night extended episode of The Bill, God rest its soul. It's a small-scale story about much wider, devastating themes, but neither they nor their emotional toll on the characters are examined in the depth they deserve during the film's running time. If Hyena were the pilot of a new TV series I'd be hooked immediately; as a self-contained story it lacks the meat to fully justify a trip to the cinema.