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A pig that is not in a poke

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From that description, you may think you’re going to get a patented Cage bug-out that’s so bad it’s good (or so bad it’s bad) or a John Wick knockoff with the star distributing a bloody revenge. in a fury fueled by the pig. Rather, Pig turns out to be a brooding character study with a powerfully subdued main performance and a handsome, tense Michael Sarnoski film, making his feature film debut. It transfers the paranoia of the dark and the tense, violent calm of a wandering samurai film to the culture of a city restaurant, and if that sounds like (and probably is) a ridiculous concept, that’s in the spotlight. of all that Pig works as well as it does for as long as it does.

Nicolas Cage in
Nicolas Cage in “Cochon”. David Reamer / Neon

When we first meet Cages’ character, he’s an unnamed hermit living in the deep forest outside of Portland, bearded, long-haired, monosyllabic, digging up fungal gold using the pig, a sow with a gentle face. His only contact with the outside world is a truffle merchant named Amir, played with brash insecurity by slippery young talent Alex Wolff (Hereditary). Amir teaches classical music in his sports car as if he was preparing for an exam that never comes.

One night, someone breaks in, hugs the hermit, and runs away with the howling pig under his arm. Head covered in blood, the hermit whose name we learn is Robin heads to town determined to claim the creature closest to his heart.

We learn a little more about Robin, including the fact that he is, or was, a legendary figure in the world of cinema. There’s a mid-way streak where the hero far worse for wear at that point sits down at a five star restaurant and demands to see the chef, a culinary con artist (David Knell) whose double take when he recognizes that Robin is the best special effect in the movie. The scene continues to build up deliciously, Robin pulling the crutches out of the chef’s pretensions while reminding him of his childhood gastronomic dreams.

Nicolas Cage (left) and Alex Wolff in
Nicolas Cage (left) and Alex Wolff in “Pig”. David Reamer / Neon

But, yes, Pig is also a movie that postulates an underground fight club where restaurant workers beat the droves of high-paid homeless people. Sarnoskis biased but dark overall in these wicked streets a man must go Like, he co-wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Block routinely slips down absurd alleys, but he straightens up again and again thanks to the rigor of his vision, and it allows the star to walk a fine line between comedic and the condemned. Someone asks Robin if he’s, uh, having sex with his pig (why else would he be so relentlessly bent on his return?), To which he replies, I don’t [expletive] my pig a line of laughter, of course, but Cage ties it to the dismal intensity of his characters. In a Nicolas Cage movie, you always wait for it to go nuclear, but Robin never does. The pot remains boiling but closed everywhere.

I could have used a little more color in the cinematography; The pig takes place in a wasteland in the Pacific Northwest, browned and rainy. Good actors like Gretchen Corbett (a regular on The Rockford Files at the time) as the fiery truffle broker and Adam Arkin as the mysterious Mr. Big are somewhat stuck, although the latter has a moment towards the end. which makes you realize The pig also includes Ratatouille among its ingredients. In the final act, Sarnoski departs from the genre in a way that showcases his ambitions while proving sadly unsatisfying as a drama, a risk the director seems willing to take but which bodes well for his to come up. Pig is a thoughtful, well-made film for an audience ready for junk food: his pearls before pigs.

PIG

Directed by Michael Sarnoski. Written by Sarnoski and Vanessa Block. With Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin. In Boston Common, Kendall, suburb. 92 minutes. R (language and violence).


Ty Burr can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @tyburr.

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