Review: Believe it or not, Pig offers one of Nicolas Cage’s finest performances

The actor commits fully to the role of an Oregon recluse out to retrieve his stolen truffle pig. But this isn't a revenge movie.


PIG (Michael Sarnoski). 90 minutes. In theatres Friday (July 23). Rating: NNNNN


Michael Sarnoski’s first feature casts Nicolas Cage as Rob, an Oregon recluse who sets out to retrieve his beloved truffle pig from the people who’ve stolen her, by any means necessary.

This sounds a lot like another John Wick riff, with a premise that sets up multiple scenes of righteous, crowd-pleasing violence as our hero punches, shoots, kicks and stabs dozens of disposable dirtbags on his way to an ultimate confrontation with the film’s big bad. We know those movies; Liam Neeson makes what I assume is an excellent living starring in them these days.

Pig is not one of those movies.

As the single-minded Rob – accompanied by his truffle buyer, hipster middleman Amir (Alex Wolff) – works his way through a very specific sliver of Portland subculture, it becomes clear that Sarnoski and co-writer Vanessa Block are using the structure of the revenge thriller to tell a very different story. Pig has other goals, and to discuss them would be incredibly unfair to the movie and to the people reading this.

All I’ll say is that Sarnoski does exactly what he wants to do, and in a manner that allows Cage to give his finest performance in years – as intensely felt as what he did in Mandy, say, but devoid of the theatricality that enabled that film’s most absurd flourishes. He just commits, and commits fully, to everything the role requires, and Sarnoski knows exactly what he’s got in front of him.

Wolff provides effective support as Amir, a hustler who’s entirely unprepared for Rob’s intensity, and Adam Arkin eventually turns up as their mutual nemesis, a cold, empty kingpin who – again – isn’t quite who you’d expect him to be, given his position in this narrative. But that’s what Sarnoski and Block’s script is doing at every turn. Like an especially resourceful chef, Pig knows what it is that you think you’ve ordered, and delivers something that expands your understanding of what that dish could be.

Don’t read anything further, don’t watch the trailers. Just go see Pig.

@normwilner

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