The Movie Waffler New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - PIG | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [Cinema/VOD] - PIG

pig review
A forest-dwelling recluse ventures into the city to retrieve his stolen pig.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Michael Sarnoski

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin, Nina Belforte, Gretchen Corbett

pig poster

When the marketing materials emerged for director Michael Sarnoski's feature debut Pig, it seemed we were in for another of Nicolas Cage's many recent oddball choices. In that sense it certainly delivers, as it's as unconventional as any of Cage's movies. But anyone expecting the John Wick style revenge thriller its setup and the promo images of a bloodied and beaten Cage might suggest are in for a shock.

Yes, Cage takes a beating or two early on, but that's where the violence ends. Here Cage plays an almost Christ-like figure who prefers to educate his antagonists with philosophising monologues rather than take them out with headshots. Set in the Pacific Northwest capital of hipster pretence, Portland, Oregon, Pig is a critique of a culture that encourages us to focus so much on impressing others that we lose sight of our own happiness.

pig review

Cage plays Robin Feld, a recluse who lives in the sprawling forests outside Portland. With the aid of his pet pig, Robin mines the woods for truffles which he trades for basic supplies with Amir (Alex Woolff), a pretentious young man who sells the delicacies to high end restaurants in the city. Dressing like Sonny Crockett and driving an expensive sportscar, Amir is clearly getting the better side of this particular bargain. But that's okay by Robin, who is quite happy to live a life free of clutter.

Robin's content existence is shattered when thieves steal his pig in the middle of the night. Convincing Amir to drive him into the city (the pig is as prized economically by Amir as it is emotionally by Robin), Robin trawls through Portland's underworld of cuisine in search of the animal he loves.

pig review

In Jules Dassin's 1949 thriller Thieves Highway, the apple trade is portrayed as such a cut-throat world that it's almost enough to put you off fruit consumption. Pig does something similar for truffles. The world of rare delicacies is portrayed here in similar fashion to the drugs trade. At the bottom of the ladder are people like Robin and the white trash junkies who live a hand to mouth existence searching for truffles in the woods. At the top are the restaurateurs and suppliers who live in mansions built on the appetites of the rich. It's all perfectly legal, but as exploitative and back-stabbing as the narcotics game.

The people Robin encounters on his quest seem to have lost something of themselves in their quest for culinary perfection. In one scene we watch as Robin - who we learn was once the city's most acclaimed chef - reminds a former student of his aspirations to open an English style pub serving simple but tasty fare. Instead the man now runs a laughably pretentious restaurant with the sort of servings that vanish in a single bite. Robin's former student has the respect of the Portland restaurant scene, but he's living someone else's dream. In contrast, Robin lives a life most would scoff at, but he's living on his own terms. I know which one I'm envious of.

pig review

Cage gives one of his quietest performances in quite some time. Even quieter than Willy's Wonderland, and he played a mute in that movie! It's a reminder that behind the madness and the memes, Cage is a fine actor. His performance here is genuinely moving, especially when Sarnoski lets him simply react to triggers like the smell of a salted baguette or a cassette recording from a lover long departed.

Cage's prolific output of recent decades was initially due to his crushing financial debts, but in the last few years he seems to have been picking movies he actually cares about. Like the physically bedraggled but intellectually astute man he plays here, Cage appears to now be living and working on his own terms, to the great benefit of movie audiences.

Pig is in UK/ROI cinemas now and on VOD from August 23rd.

2021 movie reviews