Nicolas Cage may have racked up a reputation for hit-and-miss movies but as hammy as he gets, he’s never dull and almost always entertaining. While Cage thrives on b-movies and feature films, every now and then he delivers a sharp performance to remind you he’s still got it! As prolific as he is, it always seems as though the Oscar-winning actor is having the time of his life whether he’s trying to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice in Army of One or rampaging against a hippie cult in Mandy. We know Nic Cage can act and it seems that since he’s proved it in critically-acclaimed films such as Leaving Las Vegas, Bringing Out the Dead and Adaptation… the floodgates have opened. One of the most versatile and fearless actors in Hollywood, he’s turned his attention to another curveball of a Cage film in Pig.
This drama thriller journeys with Rob, a truffle hunter, whose one-of-a-kind foraging pig is kidnapped from his home in the Oregon wilderness. Embarking on a quest to retrieve his beloved working pet, he returns to the city of Portland where his extraordinary past catches up with him. From the outset, you’d probably think Cage was dipping his toe into the special skills subgenre of vendetta thrillers in the vein of Taken and more recently John Wick. While Pig baits you with this prospect, it’s actually much more considered, thoughtful and original. Cage has done a number of violent against-the-grain performances but this one is more shamanic as he emerges from the woodlands only to commandeer a client’s sports car in a determined and relentless pursuit of his truffle hog.
It’s a wonderful feature film debut for writer-director Michael Sarnoski, co-starring Alex Wolff and Adam Arkin, giving each of his name stars an opportunity to break type. They relish the chance with Cage playing a homeless savant on a surprisingly diplomatic mission, Wolff trading his iconic role in Hereditary for something much breezier and giving Arkin another shot at being an unexpected culinary magnate and seemingly impervious villain. Toying with genre, Sarnoski essentially does a bait-and-switch that may disappoint action fans but also surprise audiences with its depth of human drama and philosophical slant.
“Oink-oink, say no more.”
Pig isn’t existential enough to drift into another realm, keeping its gritty tone as carried by Cage’s raw and rugged performance. Taking body blows and remaining unapologetically tardy in appearance, his mission takes on a spiritual element as the two-man envoy becomes about tapping into blinding truth and justice. Contrasting extreme urban materialism with barebones rural earthiness, the drama thriller remains compelling as the road trip reawakening finds a man leveraging his former glory in a “Denny Crane” kinda way to mine the system. It has a number of parallels with Captain Fantastic in this sense as an unexpected road trip turns into an earnest journey of enlightenment from a guy whose self-imposed isolation makes him a fish-out-of-water in an industry where he once reigned supreme. Determined to exact its unconventional “revenge”, Pig’s unusual hybrid tone does lend itself to moments of comic relief, almost a given with Cage at the helm.
The same moody spirit of Cage’s performance is translated into the cinematography, operating mostly in shadows to accentuate its melancholic feel. Pig has a surreal quality as one is transported from one strange scene to the next, turning the tables on characters in the most persuasive fashion. This is a dark, brooding and entertaining film that constantly defies expectations. Teasing audiences with the everready remedy of violence from a seemingly powerless man, we quickly discover that he wields his humanity as his superpower. Delving into the arena of fine dining, secret underground rivalries and the desire to be true to oneself whatever the cost, Pig makes for a refreshing escapade. The screenplay bristles with great dialogue and lines that make more sense coming from Cage’s mouth.
Coming in at a brisk 90 minutes, the film doesn’t linger yet its eclectic mix of entertainment will haunt your thoughts long after the credits roll. Powered by an unusual, sullen yet compelling lead performance from an effortless Cage, a surprisingly delicate human drama and a darkly comic yet driving tone, it’s a rich, layered and enjoyable film experience. Pig constantly defies prediction, keeping viewers entranced by its swirling mystery and heartrending porcine pursuit. Much like it’s namesake, Pig seems like it belongs in the mud and destined for the trough, but makes some miraculous overtures that help us realise just how noble and intelligent this creature can be.
The bottom line: Surprising