Where to begin with Nicolas Cage‘s latest endeavor? For starters, it’s titled Pig, and the story is about Cage’s bearded Oregonian wilderness-living recluse searching for his kidnapped truffle pig. What many, including myself, thought would be along the lines of A24’s drama First Cow meets Mandy actually turns out to be a bit more complex and intriguing than the title suggests. The likes of John Wick underworld-building subterranean fight clubs and private wine selections inside of tombs are a couple of fascinating tonally unexpected insights to NEON’s latest film. Even watching the trailer, you won’t really know the full scope of this film until you actually take a bite yourself.
As I said, Pig‘s plot is focused on Rob (Cage) looking for his beloved pig, after a group of cabin invading strangers steal it. Teaming up with the restaurant owner he sells truffles to, Amir (Alex Wolff), he must return to his old stomping grounds of Portland. While there are certainly some moments of comedy and expected outbursts from Cage, Pig plays out far more like taking a date on a fine dining experience: dramatic, intimate, tasteful, filled with unexpected corners and revelations, and with a sense of personal discovery. It’s a good feature directorial debut from Michael Sarnoski, and a promising entry for somewhat new cinematographer, Patrick Scola. If there’s one thing I can assure you about Pig, it is that you won’t really know where the story is taking you. A large portion of the film doesn’t even rely on Cage speaking, whereas Wolff—who has been appearing everywhere since Hereditary—sort of acts as the audience stand-in, helpful yet bewildered by the dirty and at times blood-covered wildman recluse that Cage is, lumbering around in a city and society that he no longer fits in. It’s worth mentioning that Adam Arkin also puts in quite the presence despite only being in the film for a small yet meaningful portion.
Nic Cage has been having quite the cagey year in my books, with both Prisoners of the Ghostland and Willy’s Wonderland failing to reach the expected levels of entertainment I had optimistically set for them. Not that Sion Sono‘s first English-language film was bad, but it certainly did not live up to the hype and ended up being one of the lesser films I saw at Sundance. The latter, Willy’s Wonderland, has seemingly and confusingly earned some kind of loving cult despite it being one of the worst films I have seen in 2021. In comparison, Pig is a welcome tour de force from Nic Cage, with those of you who have been wanting a return to his more dramatic, emotive, and restrained days having plenty to bite into here. Not to say that Cage’s performance here will thrust him into any awards buzz talk, but it’s arguably one of his best performances in quite some time—over a decade if we don’t count Mandy. It’s his mostly subdued performance that carries the film, where he reserves a small amount of traditional uncaged outbreaks for the moments they are actually called for. At the risk of getting a one-star restaurant review, allow me to say Cage does not go ham. His character Rob embraces the central thematic core of authenticity. As Rob explains to a chef within the film, “I remember every meal I ever cooked. I remember every person I ever served.” Rob no longer functions in the realm of Michelin stars, customer complaints, nor for societal expectations and mainstream norms. Despite Rob’s dishevelled appearance, he’s a man who carries himself with utmost dedication and confidence; he is a man who knows what he wants in life and how to obtain it. He abandoned that hollow and masqueraded life for reasons you’ll learn as the story’s five-course meal progresses.
Pig really is a strange film. But it’s a strange film I wholly recommend to fans of Nic Cage. It’s an intimate drama that begins to unfold its almost tragically personal plot paired well with notes of unique world-building intrigue. As I mentioned earlier in the review, there’s a dash of John Wick to this film, but in the sense of its more fascinating—even artful at times—handling of its diegetic world’s machinations and inner-workings. It subverts the genre expectations, and manages to craft something far more poetic and matching in Rob’s inner forest-bound identity—far removed and beyond the trivial squabbling and mundane cycle of city life.
Film Studies/History graduate, using my love and knowledge of the medium to pass as a critic. To my editor’s chagrin, I typically like to go over my word count in discussing films. Most if not all my reviews are originally written within an hour of finishing the film, so that I can deliver an unfiltered, raw, genuine, in the moment, thought process to you. My taste is eclectic (both in film and music), but I have a strong preference for 80s Cult/Sleaze films, Sci-fi, War, Chambara, Fantasy, and Psychological Thrillers. Thanks for giving us a read and I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit! Long live physical media; long live VHS. Remember: watch whatever, whenever, with whomever.