Pig ★★★½

I expected to like this. And I did like it enough. But it is not a classic and I'm somewhat surprised by the plaudits for a film that, in the end, ends on an underwhelming, even sappy, note that felt unearned and diminished the film.

Pig is a film that, if it is about anything, is about grief and what it does to a man. Nick Cage has retreated to the Oregon woods following the death of his wife, his life revolving around the cooking of simple meals and truffle hunting with his pig who, understandably, means more to him than any human being.

When the pig is violently stolen it sets off a classic revenge plot-line in which Cage tries to uncover the perpetrator to recover the animal and, we presume, exact violent revenge. The fact that this doesn't happen is not the problem - fooling the audience by playing against their expectations can reveal much about movies and about how genre conventions can work against real human motivations and reactions to events.

The problem for me was twofold. One is that the mafia-like underground of the Oregon food world (including a somewhat fanciful subterranean Fight Club) didn't quite work. But, mostly, that the plot worked against an understanding of Cage's grief. We reach the end and we don't feel his pain. It's not that it's a bad performance - in fact it's one of the best things about the movie in its heavy stoic solemnity - its just that the character is not much more than John Wick - a kind of machine that bludgeons. Without John Wick' genre satisfactions we are left with the smaller pleasures around the edges.

These are the quiet 'First Cow'-like scenes of cooking and food and, especially, the well played odd couple relationship with Alex Woolf. There is a nice strain of deadpan humour. In fact you could make the argument that Woolf's character arc is the single best thing in the movie - you do feel for him in a way you don't for Cage.

A good movie then but more of a cinematic exercise than anything more profound.

Jon liked this review