From Crime Film

11.22.63 – Episode 3: “Other Voices, Other Rooms”

Hulu’s 11.22.63
Episode 3: “Other Voices, Other Rooms”
Directed by James Strong
Written by Brian Nelson

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Kill Floor” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Eyes of Texas” – click here
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Following the events of “The Kill Floor”, 11.22.63 continues with Jake Epping (James Franco) driving Bill Turcotte (George MacKay), trying to explain to him how a newspaper from 1963 showed up in 1960. Jake attempts to tell him about the whole mission with which he was tasked by Al Templeton (Chris Cooper). He reveals being from 2016. That’d blown your mind if you were in ’60, that’s for sure. Poor Bill has got no clue what’s going on, though, I’m willing to bet he’s about to dive in head first.
At a motel, Jake continues explaining the complexities of his time travel situation. Bill tries his best to understand the complicated in-and-outs, but keeps holding a gun to Jake, demanding proof of his being from the future. Then he wants Jake to go back and save his sister. Jake’s got to further explain how he can only get back to October 21st, 1960. That’s the only way back, as far as it goes.
Flashes of the Dunning house, the near massacre, keeps coming back to Jake. He accidentally strangles Bill coming out of a waking nightmare. Things get even more on edge than they were. But despite all odds, Jake has a new travel companion in Bill, who seems unwilling yet simultaneously wanting to believe in the whole story. Now, we move to Dallas, as Jake starts explaining the future situation of JFK’s assassination; the Grassy Knoll, the book depository, all that.
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Jake: “What I wouldnt give for a minibar right now?”
Bill: “A what?”
Jake: “Nevermind
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Jake the writer, like Stephen King, finds himself a teaching position. This gives him a reason for hanging around and awaiting the coming events. Afterwards, Jake and Bill head out to celebrate in Dallas. Of course, Bill gets a bit wild. At the bar, up shows Jack Ruby (Antoni Corone) – “Looks like youve seen a ghost,” Jack laughs when Jake gives him a strange stare. Interesting to watch him in the past coming up against people he knows, himself being from the future and all. There’s this strange reverse sense of deja-vu. Very cool, very weird for Jake.
Engaging with everyone around him, Mr. Amberson takes up his post at school. He doesn’t vibe well with the racial politics, first asking the black secretary if she’d like a cup of coffee; this pauses everyone nearby, not understand why he’d do such a thing. It’s 1960 – duh, Jake. So silly to watch from our perspective, and Jake’s, as those of us not born and living during that time in the Southern U.S. can’t comprehend how people would be so cold. But Jake does get along with his students, something which hasn’t changed from 2016 to 1960. He gets by as best he can, anyways.
Finally, Jake is reunited with Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon) – she’s the new school librarian. She does remember him after awhile. Even better, they get shackled to chaperoning a dance at the school. A natural romance is beginning to brew. But like Al warned: not wise to get close to people, it may get messy.


Bill and Jake follow Oswald around via a timeline of where he was in those periods. They wind up in a rundown, “mixed race neighbourhood” where the word “niggers” gets tossed around easily, without a thought. The pair get themselves an apartment across from where Oswald will be moving in.
Running into the secretary from school, Miss Corcoran (Tonya Pinkins), Jake finds her unable to buy gas from a station. She walked miles to get there and is refused service by the attendant. He claims she can buy gas in her own neighbourhood. “Why dont you shut your fucking mouth?” Jake yells at the man loudly, grabbing a can for some gas, then tossing bills at him walking away. Definitely bought him some points with her, which may prove to be helpful down the road in some way. For now, it’s just a moral gesture.
At the airport, Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) arrives home from Russia after supposedly defecting. His disdain for the U.S.A is clear already. Jake is following nearby, too, as expected. He and Bill continue their mission, ordering up surveillance equipment. This is like a period piece throwback, with a technician (who incidentally served with Gen. Walker) explaining all sorts of different pieces they can use to spy from afar; all under the guise of being for Jake’s hopeful divorce.
The school dance is full swing. Jake and Sadie try policing things, including all the booze being sneaked in. They decide to “inspect” the punch that the jocks clearly spiked. A nice little romantic segue for these two characters, getting closer, learning more of one another. Only Jake is playing with fire. Will he realize that before it’s too late? Doubtful.


Skipping out on the dance, Jake heads back with Bill to start setting up the Oswald apartment for broadcast, so they can hear everything going on inside the house. They find themselves interrupted when Oswald returns. On their sneaky escape through the attic, Bill puts his hand in a nest of spiders and freaks out. This causes Oswald to go on alert. But they make it out luckily.
Inside Oswald’s place, the surveillance bugs start working. Success for the fumbling team. Their Oswald mission is officially underway with everything up and running. And this is the beginning of Jake living a double life; he forgot to go back to the school dance, as he promised Sadie before running off to attend to the Oswald project. Sadie isn’t too pleased the next day, nor is Ms. Corcoran. Such is the price of trying to change the course of history.
One of the following days, George de Mohrenschildt (Jonny Coyne) arrives at Oswald’s place. “This could be the start of the whole thing,” Jake tells Bill. Only problem is they’re speaking Russian almost constantly. This does nothing for them, and throws a wrench into Jake’s plans. Great addition, both to the book and the series. Makes things much more interesting. I guess at least they’ll hear the name Walker if it’s thrown out there. Everything else is out the window, unless Jake can track down a Russian-English dictionary, which he does soon as possible. When he comes back, Bill is knocked out on the floor, bloody nose and all. Some of the junkie-type guys from outside the building downstairs stole everything. Jake and Bill pose as FBI to get their machinery back, but the tapes are all done for pretty much.


Things are looking up for Jake on the romance end of things – Sadie wants to move fast, she kisses him and pretty much sets up their date. Again, Jake doesn’t realize these are things which will be hard when the time comes to either leave, or possibly worse. Who knows.
At a Sisters of Southern Heritage meeting, Jake and Bill attend, spying Oswald with de Mohrenschildt. Curiouser and curiouser. Particularly seeing as how General Edwin Walker (Gregory North) is speaking at the podium. Things are getting more murky by the minute. Outside, Oswald causes a commotion and then gets beat on by a few officers. Lee makes a massive scene, calling Walker a “fascist” and claiming: “I have something to say! Wake up! Wake up, you fucking fascist. Or I will kill you. I will fucking kill you.” Wow. Strong evidence towards the theory of Oswald, but is it what we’re meant to see? What the higher-ups want us to be seeing, as in the way history’s been shaped for us? We’ll have to dig deeper together. Let’s find out more.


Next episode is titled “The Eyes of Texas” and I cannot wait to see it. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans.

The Hypnotic Criminal Lure of Hyena

Hyena. 2014. Directed & Written by Gerard Johnson.
Starring Peter Ferdinando, Stephen Graham, Neil Maskell, Elisa Lasowski, MyAnna Buring, Richard Dormer, Gordon Brown, Tony Pitts, Orli Shuka, Gjevat Kelmendi, Thomas Craig, Lorenzo Camporese, Shaban Arifi, Alfred Doda, and Mem Ferda.
Film4/Number 9 Films.
Unrated. 112 minutes.
Crime/Drama

★★★★★
MV5BMTk1ODk1Njg3MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjA5MjQxNTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_ With the endorsement of Nicolas Winding Refn right on the film’s poster, there is no doubt in my mind anyone who has seen the Pusher trilogy will definitely find a likeness here in Hyena. I don’t find any crossover in terms of ripping it off, though, but merely the situations and feel of the plot definitely have that sort of vibe, a very realistic and low budget rawness that Refn also had in his crime films.
The last film Gerard Johnson wrote and directed, also starring Peter Ferdinando, was an amazing dive into the black mind of a quiet serial killer living in a tiny council flat, Tony (you can find my review here). I absolutely loved that one and I’m inclined to enjoy this even more. While the Refn vibe is absolutely present, I feel between Ferdinando’s acting and the directing/writing on the part of Johnson this movie takes on a life of its own without having to rely on predecessors with similar style.
Hyena is a savagely intense, visceral crime thriller in regards to its plot and story. At the same time, Johnson instils his film with an incredible amount of visual flair. Not only is there a gritty, raw style, Johnson opts for a lot of great imagery often involving colour and shadow. Most of all, the character Ferdinando plays and the story surrounding him is enough to hold you for a little under two hours. Not once was I bored, between the screenplay’s action, its turns, and the high tension involved as the stakes for the main character seem to never stop skyrocketing, right up until the bitter end.
69862564319377227606Michael (Peter Ferdinando) is a detective in London, his crew includes Martin (Neil Maskell) and Keith (Tony Pitts) among others. On his own, Michael takes care of the Turkish criminals as much as he can, getting a piece of the action. When several Albanians murder one of his Turks in horrific fashion while Michael watches on in hiding, things begin to change. At first it’s merely the disappearing presence of the Turkish criminals he’d been dealing with all along. Soon, Michael himself becomes the target of another law enforcement officer with whom he has history, Nick Taylor (Richard Dormer).
Forced into dealing with the same Albanians which he was forced to watch murder his Turkish friend, Michael enters into a scarily tenuous relationship with these newly moved in gangsters. What follows is part crisis of conscience, part survival of the fittest, as Michael must figure out how to live off the scraps of all the carcasses beginning to pile up and topple into the streets.
image_banner.phpSomething I thought that’s more evident here, both explicitly and implicitly, is how the brutality amongst the gangsters in the world of Hyena feels even more vicious than anything in Refn’s Pusher films (not knocking them because they’re some of my favourite crime films ever). For instance, the Albanian gangsters are pretty damn awful with their level of savagery. One early scene just after the first half hour sees a woman at their hands get cut them her wound is salted (I think it’s salt; could also be detergent of some kind) – it’s like another day at the office for them, each stone faced and uncaring, almost enjoying watching the woman’s pain. Not everything is perfectly explicit, as I said; some of the violence comes offscreen. Like when Michael’s Turkish gangster friend gets chopped by the Albanians. Though, we do see the aftermath, the actual violence itself is offscreen, which is something I’ve always found effective: show us the consequences, let us deal with those, but refrain from showing the acts of violence themselves. There’s a particular sort of gravitas that comes out of that technique I find works well for certain films. In Hyena, writer-director Johnson serves his film and story greatly by not having all the violence and murder displayed openly. Instead he sort of edges along the cliff – giving us pieces now and then, to satisfy the bloodlust, then merely teasing us, wetting our beaks slightly in order to ramp up the tension. It’s the same way Johnson went about his previous serial killer flick Tony, which didn’t have as much blood and violence in it as you’d expect for a story like that; he reveals only what is necessary to keep the tension and the suspense flowing at high volume.
hyena_f3As for the previous Johnson film, musician Matt Johnson composed the perfectly fitting score for Hyena. Some of the pieces he put into the score are beyond foreboding and full of darkness. As I always say, a movie that has music which compliments its visual style can really create an intense atmosphere and tone. One aspect of this movie I love is the ever pervading atmosphere that keeps us uneasy, unsettled, as if anything might happen at any time – particularly anything bad. The score has plenty of interesting sections. Some are full of this pulsing electronic rhythm, many others have this mysterious thriller styled music with beautiful foreign instrumentation and percussion which really puts you in the middle of these Albanian run neighbourhoods, the Turkish spots, et cetera. You almost get, in the music alone, a look into the multicultural side of London; albeit the gritty, criminal side, but still it’s fascinating stuff. I think my favourite bits, though, are the electronic pieces in the score because there’s a wildly scary quality just through these sounds which helps Johnson easily put together shots to hold us in that place of stasis he needs. Then when Johnson uses the visuals again to bring us out of that lull and SLAM US with something intense and visceral, the music also pumps up the emotion and the film charges at us in these moments. Another great instance of a film where audio and visual elements work together creating a wonderful atmosphere, as well as this combination helps set and hold a tone the director aims to attain.
My favourite instance of this involves a MASSIVE SPOILER – when Michael (Ferdinando) takes David Knight (Stephen Graham) to meet the Albanians, and as David is violently murdered Johnson slows everything down – time nearly stands still, the scene happens in slow motion while the score is just mesmerizing. You won’t believe it until you see it. Afterwards, the music still pumping, Michael runs and runs down the streets of London, fast as he can. It’s an incredible sequence which starts a minute or so before the one hour fifteen minute mark.
MV5BNDAzNTIyNTA2OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDg1MDg2MjE@._V1_SY576_SX1024_AL_Peter Ferdinando does a great job with his character Michael. Further than that, I think the character itself was written well by Gerard Johnson. There’s parts of Michael with which I found myself empathizing – he’s sort of trying to stay relevant while also hoping to keep alive and out of jail. Other times, I wondered how the hell he managed to get himself down into the dirty quicksand so abruptly. Michael also seems to me like someone who can be slightly naive at times, even for such an obviously seasoned detective, no stranger to dealing with violent, insane criminals; he willingly walks himself into too much at various times throughout Hyena. However, despite the character’s flaws Ferdinando plays him spot on. I love the last ten minutes of the film because you can almost chew on the tension watching Michael, it’s all in his face and his eyes, everything about him speaks to how strained and stressed this man is, which makes you feel as if you’re sitting right alongside him. Ferdinando does great things as an actor with plenty of range in him, from this to Tony alone he has proved to be fantastic.
HyenaThis is a 5 star crime thriller film to me. Not much out there in the past couple years as good and slick as this, nor as interesting in terms of visuals and the score. Tons of great things happening underneath the surface. Some critics and filmgoers online would have you believe the ending is not satisfying. Me, I’m the type of person who also loved The Sopranos and how it ended. There’s something about the last few moments, watching Michael, the music washing in over us again heavier, heavier, then when things come to a head and the credits cut in I feel more satisfied than anything. Sure, there are no concrete answers, but think about it: can you imagine ANY situation in which Michael would’ve been all right afterwards? There’s no possible scenario that would’ve worked out appropriately for him in the end, so Gerard Johnson gave us a poignant, quiet end with no resolutions only an anticipation of the WORST TO COME. I love the way the credits come in afterwards, the title card nice and stylized in blue ink, and there’s an amazing song playing in the background.
See this and enjoy it or not – one of the greatest crime thriller films of the last 5 years easily. I can only hope others might find the same fascinating elements in Hyena that I have. So far, I’ve seen this about a handful of times now and I highly suggest heading over to iTunes at some point soon for a copy. I’m definitely going to watch it again soon.. again.