MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Drama/ Stars: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin, Nina Belforte, Gretchen Corbett, David Knell, Beth Harper, Julia Bray, Darius Pierce, Elijah Ungvary, Cassandra Violet/Runtime: 92 minutes
If there is one thing I love when it happens it’s when a slice of cinema I had no idea even existed comes up behind me and tempts me into watching it despite any reservations I may have due to either scheduling conflicts, not really wanting to see it, or one of a multitude of other reasons that I don’t think I should list here due to being too numerous…and then it proceeds to completely and utterly gob smack the absolute heck out of me with how brilliant it turns out to be. The reason I bring this up dear reader is because the slice of cinema I am reviewing today, 2021’s Pig is very much the kind of cinema that I was describing above. Indeed here is a slice of cinema that I had only the bare minimum of knowledge about it going into it (it was an indie film starring Nic Cage and was about him and a series of circumstances involving a pig that was inexplicably receiving a lot of critical acclaim) and what I got was a slice of cinema that is by equal measure riveting, soulful, and actually fairly engaging and intriguing from beginning to end. Suffice it to say then that this slice of cinema might seem simplistic on the surface, but thanks in large part to immensely talented work done on both sides of the camera what we get is an intriguingly rich cinematic viewing experience that manages to be assembled with a phenomenal degree of care and skill to say nothing of one that no matter how many times you watch it be it one or 100 will prove to always be one that you cannot wait to get to the beginning simply so you can see it play out all over again. Yes I won’t lie to you dear reader there are a few components to this slice of cinema that, for all intents and purposes, may not be viewed as “functioning” in the typical film crafting sense of the word. Yet even with that being said, it is quite difficult to imagine that either this slice of cinema’s scribe/ helmer Michael Sarnoski nor its lead performer Nicolas Cage for that matter really developed any sense of anxiety or suffered from a crisis of confidence about this and it is the fact that this slice of cinema, much like those two men, chose to commit whole hog (pun intended) on just how quirky and just plain odd the film chooses to get which results in this slice of cinema being one that I promise will stay with you long after the screen cuts to black and the credits begin to roll….
The plot is as follows: Pig gets its oinking good narrative underway by introducing us to our hero who takes the form of a man by the name of Rob. Rob, we are rather quickly able to pick up on, is a bearded and significantly disheveled if not downright hermitesque truffle hunter who spends his days looking for truffles and enjoying his solitary lifestyle with his (what else?) truffle hunting and loyal to a t pig whom he loves fairly deeply. Yet lest you think this Grizzly Adams individual has nobody of the species Homo sapiens that he interacts with on a fairly decent basis you would be wrong because there is someone. That of course would be a young and slightly sniveling/snooty entrepreneur by the name of Amir who pops up in his nice sports car every week in order to buy truffles from Jeremiah Johnson Jr. here every week and even that human interaction can get quite tense at times. Yet things soon come to a head when the only friend that our hero has (the pig) is literally pignapped by a group of nefarious people late one night, we see that he has no alternative but to turn to Amir for aid which Amir agrees to give since his entire business is rooted in the truffles that Rob and his pig have managed to acquire for him. So it is that we see our bearded hermit, with a reluctant Amir along for the ride, head to no less a location than Portland, Oregon in order to try and investigate the porker’s mysterious kidnapping where a few things quickly become clear. Namely that not only is this hunt for a missing pig going to go down avenues you won’t be expecting, but that there is more to Amir than meets the eye and significantly more to our hero Rob and his past than the highly antisocial, heavily bearded, and just grungy looking recluse that we know. Suffice it to say therefore that by the end of this you may (or may not) know who took the pig and what has happened to her, but I can promise that you will have gone on an odyssey that will prove to be quite revealing, heart wrenching, and yet also may prove to be the thing to help Rob out of his stupor and begin slowly but surely reclaiming the humanity he had long since abandoned…..
Now I can assure you that I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that this slice of cinema was going to be Nic Cage’s take on the John Wick franchise complete with visceral vengeance and brutality being enacted against the people who stole Rob’s beloved pig. I mean yes this film’s co-scribe/helmer Michael Sarnoski‘s screenplay is right off the bat rooted in terms of revenge, but at the same time this slice of cinema is most assuredly not the bloody beat and shoot’em up that we have seen Keanu Reeves dish out here lately. Instead this slice of cinema’s co-scribe/helmer makes the ingenious choice to have this be a low-key character analysis of a complicated guy whose grizzly exterior and grumpy manner are a cover for deeply buried pain that is only made even more agonizing by his beloved piggy wiggly being suddenly and swiftly pignapped and who finds that if he wants to come to terms with the pain he has been burying deep inside himself (and find his pig) he must journey back to the world he left for reasons I shan’t spoil here and it benefits the film perfectly. Suffice it to say that this film’s helmer is triumphant in sculpting and molding a truly beautiful saga of love and loss that is equal parts touching and heartbreaking in equal measure that can be summarized by a single statement said in the film itself by its main character that will make you cry like no body’s business. Indeed even though this slice of cinema operates on a runtime, including credits, of 2 minutes over an hour and a half film helmer Sarnoski is able to patiently weave this slice of cinema in a slow burn manner that will keep you engaged on its relatable hero from beginning to end. Finally, it also doesn’t hurt that this slice of cinema’s directorial flair is matched immensely well by a loving job from the film’s cinematography department headed by Pat Scola and a potent yet also mournful musical accompaniment from Alexis Grapsas and Philip Klein respectively.
Now this slice of cinema is also the blessed recipient of some truly remarkable and downright engaging performances. This starts with Nicolas Cage and I’ve gotta be honest with you dear reader: this is not only easily one of Cage’s finest live action efforts that he has managed to give audiences in quite a while. Indeed this is not the gonzo Color Out of Space or Mandy Cage we have gotten as of late though I love that Cage just as much. Rather, this is the Cage from such films as Leaving Las Vegas or Bringing Out the Dead and as such this performance is one that I know the odds might be against it, but it certainly deserves some awards recognition. I mean it is downright riveting and just plain incredible to get to see Cage actually be a powerful actor again and just slowly but surely remove the multitude of layers that this three-dimensional and quite complex character manages to possess. I mean the character of Rob has quite a bit that is not on the surface level and yet Cage still skillfully is able to patiently and methodically reveal to us the heart and soul of a man who has been broken by circumstances in life that have resulted in his here and now being just as heart aching as things that happened in his past. Yet even though this is a significantly more low-key turn than what fans of the Cagester might be accustomed to as of late, this slice of cinema does manage to give him several instances of both fury as well as agony and yet it is in these moments where the performance really soars rather than become a caricature. Suffice it to say that not only is this a truly phenomenal performance, but is also is wonderful to see Cage give a performance that helps to show the movie goer why, if he is given the right material, he can still be a terrific talent in the land of movie magic. Yet even though this slice of cinema is without a doubt one that exists as a chance for Cage to shine in a lead role again, we also get a wonderful co-starring role from Alex Wolff who is just as phenomenal in this as the smug and slightly bratty Amir who we actually find ourselves coming to care about. Indeed, without going into spoilers, the character of Amir may seem like a spoiled brat, but he has his own issues in life especially when it comes to the relationship he has with dear ol’ dad Darius and as such I can ensure you that there is a whole lot more to this character than his smug exterior or even his stylish sports car. Suffice it to say that even though Wolff and Cage start this movie butting heads for all intents and purposes they do manage as their journey goes on to create a brotherly bond in this that results in a cinematic duo that is one of the most charming I have seen in a slice of cinema from last year.
All in all I am not going to lie to you dear reader: if you go into the slice of cinema that is Pig thinking it to be a revenge film in the vein of John Wick with a long-haired and thick-bearded Nicolas Cage going all backwoods on the group who stole his beloved pig you are going to be sorely disappointed because this is most assuredly NOT that kind of movie by any stretch of the imagination. Nor for that matter is this slice of cinema a deeply immersive mystery in the vein of the Nic Cage film 8MM with the key differences being that in this one Cage discovers his pig has become the subject of a severely sick and twisted snuff film. Again, not the kind of cinema this is even though, much like a mystery film, the fate of the titular pig is one that you, the movie goer, will come to care very deeply about though in regards to whether or not you (alongside Cage) ever learn about what happened to this beloved animal during the course of this slice of cinema’s runtime…..that is something that I elect to keep mum about. As it is however, this slice of cinema is a philosophical, plain and simple, alternating between comedic and downright heart wrenching here and there, but one that ultimately proves to be a beautifully odd and yet also instantly iconic character analysis of a man who, for his reasons, had to leave a world he loved more than anything only to have fate cruelly make him go back due to events he had both no control in and no say in whatsoever. With that being said, the helmsmanship may be solid, the other departments behind the camera may do fairly good work, and the support cast is fairly strong, but at the end of the day the component that really anchors this entire slice of cinema would have to be the truly magnificent work done by Nicolas Cage in the lead role. Suffice it to say that not only is this one of the best roles that Cage has played in a while, but this slice of cinema is also one of the best live action efforts he’s been a part of in a while as well. Yes it may seem like I am going whole hog on this, but as a matter of fact that is exactly what I am doing. Therefore definitely go out and bring home the bacon ehhh this slice of cinema. I promise you it will definitely be worth your while and so much more. On a scale of 1-5 I give Pig “2021” a solid 4 out of 5.