Made in 2014 but not getting a release until 2016, Hyena Road tells the story of the war in the Middle East from the Canadian point of view by Canadian filmmaker Paul Gross. Mr. Gross has written, produced, directed and stars in Hyena Road a patriotic but meandering film riddled with way too many subplots and except for a couple of subplots which are interesting, a film that is overly long and ultimately empty. There are no less than about 6 subplots going at once and although, most can keep up with them, they are populated by characters who are not really explained with much depth and come across as quite dull. I can tell Gross is very proud of his country and I wish more American filmmakers had the same pride in their country that he has in his. It is refreshing to see and for the love and pride he has in his country, I applaud Paul Gross.
The film’s title is in reference to a road (give you one guess what it is called) that the coalition forces are trying to cultivate as a supply route for them and their allies, as well as a possible green zone (a place of safety for the good guys). First, the Canadian forces have to rid the area of insurgents and their IED’s, which in and of itself, is a a tough job. Hyena Road follows a squad of Canadian Special Forces who venture out on patrols to mop up any resistance as well as the behind-the-scenes politics and love affairs back at the base. Then there is the almost mystical Islamic cleric with different colored eyes who may or may not hold they key to the whole mess. Then there is the supposed good guys who may or may not be the good guys that one of the Commanding Officers are grooming to be liaisons to broker a peace deal with the insurgents. If it sounds involved, you are right. Think Lone Survivor with American Sniper and take out most of the compelling stories and you have Hyena Road.
The film means well and aside from a sweet but forbidden romance between a female soldier and one of the squad’s leaders, there is not much I cared about. Characters come and go without much explanation and one scene dissolves into the other without much going on.The mechanics of the plot drag this film to a crawl in some instances. Gross can tell a good story every now and again but he has tried to weave so much into one film that he can’t spend too much time one element because he has so much invested in other plot points. Still, the film looks good, the action is well staged, the acting is sufficient and Asher Lenz’s score is very effective. Gross also did a fine job with the film’s climax which is violent, tragic and powerful. Hyena Road is not an awful film, but it is an amalgamation of much better films all which need to be seen before this one.
Hyena Road- **3/4 out of 5
Hyena Road- Rated R for language, sexual situations war violence and gore
Hyena Road- Run Time is 130 minutes
Hyena Road is out in select theaters and On Demand. Check your local listings for locations, times and availability.