Hyena Road will never be accused of being a tourist infomercial for Afghanistan.
The Canadian film takes a hard look at the twisted reality called the Afghan war. Focusing on three individuals with different goals, and very different reasons for fighting :
Warrant Officer Sanders (ROSSIF SUTHERLAND, Kiefer’s half-brother) is a true blue solider, and believes he can “change the war with just one bullet”;
Intelligence officer Pete Mitchell (PAUL GROSS, who also wrote and directed) sees the war as many little conflicts that have piled up over centuries to build just one cluster;
and The Ghost, a famous Afghan warrior that lead the charge against the Soviets and now is trying to make peace without interference from the Taliban or Allied Forces.
The film opens with Sanders and his squad being ambushed by a group of Taliban only to find safety from an old man in a nearby village. Sanders thinks the guys a nut, but welcomes the help. Back at the base, the story perks the interest of Mitchell, whom soon tracks down the mysterious man with Sanders help.
Mitchell’s guest is correct that the old man is the legendary Ghost of the Desert who lead the rested ce against the ‘ole USSR in the 80’s. (He was a friend of Rambo also, remember Rambo 3?). Needing all the help they get, Mitchell convinces the brass to let him turn the Ghost into an asset. They believe with the Ghost by they’re side the Taliban will show enough respect to him that it will allow the for completion of highway called the Hyena Road.
Mitchell and Sanders go through hoops and hell to earn the trust of the Ghost, only to be blindsided. I won’t spoil anything but happy ending I was rooting for didn’t materialize.
Overall the cast holds up well, but Gross is clearly the strongest out of the group. Sutherland’s performance is admirable but comes off uneven in spots. Like I said for the most part well acted just nothing memorable. Gross’s script is bumpy but extremely well researched. His direction could use a lift I felt. There are multiple times when the films feels one way than changes, there just wasn’t a consistent style. For examples there are some random voice overs throughout the film that just very out-of-place for a film that’s very conventional.
But I’m not sure any of the faults on technical side really change my mind on the film.
While not as powerful as “American Sniper”, Hyena Road, for me, served as yet another reminder of Kipling’s famous words from his poem The Young British Soldier:
“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An’ go to your Gawd like a soldier.”
The film and script might not be perfect, but I believe Gross gets his point across;”Afghanistan is a terrible, horrible pit of humanity. Why are we still have there?”
On VOD now.