Who knew the culinary industry was so competitive?
Pig tells the story of Robin Feld (Nicolas Cage), a reclusive truffle hunter in the Oregonian wilderness. Living as somewhat of a hermit with his beloved pig, the mysterious Feld survives by selling truffles off the grid to Amir (Alex Wolff), an ambitious young culinary salesman. However, when a home invasion leads to the theft of his prized pig, Feld is infuriated. Hellbent on recovering his pet, Feld is forced to return to his former life and delve into Portland’s culinary underworld.
While the premise to Pig may sound ridiculous, the result is far from a joke. Written and directed by Michael Sarnoski, Pig is almost shocking in its silence. At a time when it feels like every middle-aged man needs to establish a revenge actioner, Pig uses all of those tropes to its benefit without throwing a punch. With franchises like John Wick, Nobody, and The Equalizer dominating the multiplex, Sarnoski creates a world that feels like it’s going to wow you with its set pieces but highlights its performances instead. (Admittedly, the biggest question mark to me remains the title. While the title works considering the story, it really feels like it should be the name for a gritty horror film instead of the character piece that it actually is.)
In many ways, the comparisons to John Wick are inevitable (and intentional). Whereas the first Wick film dealt with his vengeful attacks due to the death of his puppy, Pig takes a similar track with its narrative. Both Wick and Feld burn with wicked intensity and obsession over the loss of their animals. Both men’s quest for vengeance lead into the unknown seedy underbelly of their respective worlds. Even the names of both men strike fear into the heart of their former associates.
But, the films could not be more different. And that’s a great thing.
Unlike Wick’s eye for vengeance, Feld’s interest remains only retrieving his beloved pig. As he enters into the underworld, people freeze at the sight of him yet it’s more out of respect than fear. When he walks into an underground fight club, one expects vicious outbursts that will put the room in check but the result is far more powerful. Rather than unleash his anger upon the world for the loss of his pet, Feld has no interest in acts of violence. (Although, without giving any spoilers to the film’s finale, Feld turns out to be as lethal as Wick… without hurting a soul.)
What’s more, credit must be given to Cage as well who is absolutely fascinating to watch work here. Without resorting to his trademark manic behaviour, Cage burns onscreen with an inner rage that bubbles hot below the surface. Although Cage’s career has intentionally veered into the realm of self-parody in the last decade or so, Pig is a reminder of how good he truly is when given material that harnesses his talent. (Seriously. I’d forgotten.)
In its soul, Pig is about far more than a lost animal. Featuring a solid script and performances, Pig plays out like a modern-day parable that highlights the power of identity. Although he’s been hiding in the woods for the last fifteen years, Feld’s name still rings in the ears of those who knew him. (In fact, his name carries such weight that he’s hesitant to use it.) However, this self-awareness becomes even more clear when it’s held up against his unlikely pseudo-partner Amir.
Having grown up under his father’s shadow, Amir is a man who does not yet know who he is. Torn between his father’s achievements and charting is own path, he genuinely yearns for some acknowledgement about his own level of success. (For example, there’s no question that his brightly coloured Camaro is meant to show the world that he matters.)
However, when he meets Feld, he discovers something different about himself through his experience with the culinary hero. Rather than let the world know that he has returned, Feld carries himself with quiet humility. For Feld, he knowswho he is but he has no interest in throwing it around. Although his mind is as sharp as his skills, Feld is so comfortable with himself that he knows the most powerful weapon at his disposal is to be himself. As such, there’s a beauty in his gruff and grizzled exterior that leaves a mark on the soul of his young companion.
Fueled by its heart, Pig is simply something to behold. With all the markers of yet another action-fest, Sarnoski has created something far more creative and almost poignant at times. Though there will be many who miss this film strictly due to their lack of interest in Cage or its marketing, trust me. This is one Pig who should not be put out to pasture.
Pig is available in select theatres on Friday, July 16th, 2021.