Thoughtful and beautifully crafted revenge tale, character study and satire.
- Pig review by PD
In his feature debut, American director Michael Sarnoski has come up with a highly original piece which is part revenge tale, part character-study, part satire on the meaning of value and social status . The result is certainly a bit hit-and-miss but is nevertheless gripping throughout.
The comparison with John Wick is an immediately obvious one – a brooding loner retired from the outside world has his beloved pet taken from him inspiring him to go on a single-minded quest to find what was stolen. Curiously, Pig also comes hot on the trotters of The Truffle Hunters, a romantic documentary about mushroom digger-uppers and their dogs set in Northern Italy. In terms of tone and form, Pig and The Truffle Hunters couldn’t be more different, but it’s a rather neat coincidence that in being released so close together, each offers a strange emotional juxtaposition to the other. Visually, too, Pig has more in common with The Truffle Hunters, its early scenes in particular awash in earthy brown tones and close ups that unify both Nicolas Cage's Rob and his pig’s perspectives and their relationship with the land.
Cage starring as former chef turned truffle hunter is the big draw here; brooding and contemplative, Cage gives a haunting, captivating performance, each encounter on his quest to find his pig layering pathos upon tension. Violence hangs in the air of every scene, yet with the exception of a couple of eruptions, it remains resolutely out of frame - indeed, Rob is like an anti-John Wick: just as relentlessly single-minded but with his pain turned inwards, not out.
Rob's quest brings him into the purview with the lower and upper echelons of Portland society, and he has more than a few pithy observations to make about the hypocrisy and pretension of the society he has shunned. In one of the film’s most effective scenes, Rob destroys one of his former sous chefs, now running a fancy but vapid restaurant, by reminding him of his former dream of running a pub. Later, in Pig’s emotional climax, Rob confronts the person responsible for the pig theft by simply cooking him a meal. Bloody retribution is hinted at but ultimately withheld, denying us the easy catharsis that screen violence often denotes. True catharsis comes – if at all – not through the barrel of a gun but from Rob’s ability to see through his adversaries .
Perhaps the film ends up being less than the sum of its parts, as it were, but it's a thoughtful and beautifully crafted piece.
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