When one first hears the logline for Pig, Michael Sarnoski’s debut as a feature film director, they would be forgiven for making certain assumptions. The film, technically speaking, centers on a loner played by Nicolas Cage in search of his prized truffle pig, which was kidnapped from his home in the woods by some junkies. After that inflammatory incident, he will emerge from his self-imposed ‘retirement’ and embark on a quest that will take him right into the heart of his community’s dark underbelly.
On paper it reads like a gonzo knock-off from Keanu Reeves’ John Wick movies that also feature a hit man coming out of exile to avenge a murdered dog. This would also be in line with the current career trajectory that has taken Cage, an Oscar-winning actor, to grindhouse detours such as Mandy and Mother and father. However, the story that Sarnoski and his co-writer Vanessa Block want to tell is much more intimate and ultimately moving. Pig is not an action movie (although there is occasional violence) nor is it intended for the trough. Rather, it’s a serious set of questions asked about why someone – basically everyone – would withdraw from society, and what it would mean for that person to get involved again. About a beloved swine or something.
Indeed, a lot of questions popped into my head as the movie started with Rob, Cage’s extinct outcast, who spent his days foraging for truffles in the woods with his pig, and then otherwise wanted to end the days at a campsite, he has been turned into an extremely practical home. He’s clearly waiting for something, although for much of the movie we’re not quite sure what. Likewise, the nature of his relationship with Amir (Alex Wolff) is initially presented as a mystery. Amir initially looks like a son, but is actually the middleman to whom Rob sells the truffles. Yet there is something endearing, albeit tense, between the two men that only surfaces long after their quest has begun, taking them to the city’s unspoken fight clubs and the tangle of webs woven by monopolistic food wholesalers.
It’s actually Amir who provides transportation and connections for Rob’s return to the world after the pig is stolen, taking him to the town’s toniest restaurants, and the sub-hour criminal activity. Like the shavings of onions in a soft layered dish, little by little we are exposed to the details of both Rob and Amir’s past lives, and what a stolen truffle pig is really worth to a man who was once an internationally renowned chef before he disappeared in the wilderness.
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