‘Pig’ review: no ham in sight during vintage Nicolas Cage drama

The famously furious actor resists his usual urge to go hog-wild

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    Surely no one saw this coming. Who could have expected a new Nicolas Cage revenge movie, light on violence and heavy on slow, careful contemplation?

    Cage is Rob, an unkempt truffle hunter living a solitary life with his pig in the wilds of Oregon, quietly grieving for his dead wife. His lonely existence is interrupted by flash city boy Amir (Alex WolffHereditary, Old), who pays Rob a tidy cash sum for his tasty truffles until one night, Rob’s pig is stolen. They track the thief to Portland, where both Rob and Amir must confront their professional and familial demons.

    The film threatens to turn into a bloodbath at times. For example, during an underground fight scene Rob must test how much punishment he can withstand by refusing to fight back – and it becomes quite a bloody affair. This sequence, though, turns out to be a false dawn for those expecting the usual Cage gore quota. Amir’s dad Darius (Adam Arkin – Sons of Anarchy), with whom he is fiercely competitive and in a strained relationship following the apparent suicide of Amir’s mother, is a key player on the Portland restaurant scene and has to be confronted to solve the mysterious pig-napping. But Rob himself was once a revered chef in the same city and his own culinary skills are well-known in the area.

    Pig
    Cage plays a truffle hunter with a dark past. CREDIT: Alamy / Altitude

    Pig is at its best when it uses food to evoke memories. It does this frequently but never better than when Amir and Rob visit Eurydice, one of Darius’ restaurants. Rob summons the head chef to their table and it’s Derrick, a former protégé of Rob’s. He reveals how Derrick (David Knell) used to dream of running an English pub and creating hearty grub a million miles removed from the fussy fare he now produces for an uncaring hipster crowd. Derrick’s increasing unease and sad realisation combined with Cage’s powerful, matter-of-fact demolition of his current career make for perhaps the greatest scene of the year – no explosions, sex or death, just brutal home truths.

    Remarkably, Pig is Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut (he also wrote the script, based on a story co-created with Vanessa Block), though it has the assurance and quality of an old hand. If all Sarnoski had achieved was to draw out one of Cage’s finest performances, that would have been enough but Pig is so much more. Wolff and Arkin excel in their support roles and cinematographer Patrick Scola must be congratulated for his striking work in creating a visual masterpiece. Its slow pace and relative lack of action mean it won’t please everyone, but Pig is porking brilliant. Seek it out.

    Details

    • Director: Michael Sarnoski
    • Starring: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin
    • Release date: August 20
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