July 12th, 2021
STARRING: NICOLAS CAGE, ALEX WOLF, ADAM ARKIN
DIRECTED BY: MICHAEL SARNOSKI
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
There’s something about Nicolas Cage. His career at this point has been a wild whirlwind of highs and lows. From his start with movies like Rumble Fish or Valley Girl, from his action breakout in The Rock or Face/Off, his achievements with world-renowned directors in Raising Arizona, Wild at Heart, and Bringing Out the Dead. Nicolas Cage has done it all, and yet, he still has the capacity to amaze us. And why should I be surprised? Cage never gives a lazy effort, even when he’s making brutal low budget exercises, the man refuses to phone it in. For that, you have to love him. One could argue that Nicolas Cage is keeping cinema going. He still uses the classic thespian teaching he received at UCLA school of theater and always pushes the boundaries of what the medium is about. His newest film Pig is a welcomed change of pace. Cage takes on the role of a once celebrated Chef that has escaped from it all to a cabin in the woods and his only friend is a truffle pig named Brandy. What one could easily think is that this would be another Cage going crazy picture, but slowly turns into a gentle story of family and the expressions of love. Pig is unlike any Nicolas Cage movie we have seen yet.
The narrative is broken into three parts, similar to a three course meal. We first meet Rob (Cage) in the woods, walking around the grounds with Brandy, all in prep for breakfast, and to his luck Brandy discovers a massive truffle to help spruce up his meal. The process that director Michael Sarnoski takes in capturing Rob prep the meal is romantic; Gentle seasoning, cutting up fresh vegetables, and taking the delicate care he puts into every serving. It’s a methodical process and although he’s escaped from the rest of the world, every so often Amir (Alex Wolff) shows up in his BMW and willing to pay top dollar for the truffles Brandy has found. It seems to be the way Rob makes any income, but that also leads to association with undesirable people, which is followed by Rob being attacked in the middle of the night, and his prize pig is stolen. Now the goal becomes to get back that pig but something more happens along the way, something completely opposite of what is expected.
It’s arguably my duty as a film critic to give you a dose of reality for what the movie Pig is. The set up and the advertisements make it seem like this would be John Wick, but instead of revenge for his dog, he’s trying to get his prize porcine back. That’s not what happens. The pursuit of the animal leads to Rob and Amir teaming up to find the pig and following down a path of people that may have been impacted by both of their lives. The precision is in the screenplay by Sarnoski and co-writer Vanessa Block. A majority of the conversations between characters take place at tables, where the details of our two traveling characters begins to drip, drip the information about where they’ve been before their current predicament. The arc for Nicolas Cage’s character is the appetizer of the narrative and it’s Alex Wolff’s Amir who is on his own journey, his own personal growth, which becomes the film’s main course. The final sequence of Pig is a beautiful exercise in how important the moments between family exist over food and how that expression of love is as personal as it can be.
I also won’t sugar coat it for you, the pace of Pig is slow, methodical, and gentle. As the search goes from the restaurant of a former sous chef of Rob, to investigating local markets that supply truffles, and even conversations with Amir’s wealthy father, there’s a build up of tension, but that tense release is not coming in a shootout. Cage’s character is left bloody, has shaggy hair, a dirty face, and weathered hands, but it’s not callus hands like a mechanic. His hands are precious from his cooking and his once legendary cooking career has now been exiled, not by anyone, but by a life of love and loss. And now he’s focused on getting back the one friend he had left, his pig. It all comes to life from Nicolas Cage, who delivers his best performance since his work on David Gordon Green’s Joe
I wouldn’t tell you if they find the pig or not because that is till the films central catalyst, but that’s not the films biggest surprise. The surprise that is Pig is a much welcomed surprise. If there’s any negative aspect it’s that the unexpected pace, heartfelt narrative took the wind out of my Cage rage sails. When you’re expecting the wild performances we’ve seen from recent works such as Mandy, Color Out of Space, and The Trust, I guess you set your expectations high. That’s beside the point. Pig is a masterful reminder that Nicolas Cage has always been a special talent. I was in awe of his work in Pig. He’s on a different level of acting, with his facial expressions, his kind eyes, and spectacular delivery of dialogue. This is Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut and it packs an unforgettable punch in the end. This Pig is high on the hog.
PIG IS PLAYING IN SELECT THEATERS THIS FRIDAY JULY 16TH
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady