Directed/co-written by Michael Sarnoski and starring Nicolas Cage, Pig (2021) is an atmospherically dark and suspenseful pig-napping mystery feature coming to theaters July 16th. Pig is both a hostage rescue and an existential expedition, acting as a palate cleanser between his typically insane films as it is more high-brow compared to other contemporary films from the Cage-verse. The thoughtful and thought-provoking script for Pig gave Cage a lot of meat to chew on, setting him up with memorable monologues that were motivational without turning campy.
Rob (Nicolas Cage) lives in a cabin in the woods where he and his beloved pig hunt highly coveted truffles he sells to an underground buyer. One evening, their peaceful sleep is interrupted by masked intruders who steal Rob’s pig and knock him unconscious. Upon waking the next morning he immediately begins his search, enlisting the help of his buyer, Amir (Alex Wolff), for getting around the city. Amir becomes more and more entangled in the search for Rob’s pig, stumbling upon both inner revelations into themselves as well as clues that lead them closer to Rob’s pig.
I suppose in Cage accepting any and every role in order to pay off his debts, every now and then, an unusually serious role would slip into his ever-growing filmography. Pig‘s premise is that ‘a man with a murky past gets his beloved pet kidnapped’, which sounds like the perfect setup for a fun version of a John Wick-like revenge crusade, however, Pig is nothing of the sort. In the end, it turned out more like an arthouse melodrama with the emotional pull and backstory of Chef (2014) but then that character is dropped into the Taken universe. Nic Cage’s character is equipped with a rather bratty sidekick whose playboy style clashes with the stoic and cynical personality that Cage adopted for his character. In my opinion, the sidekick may have gotten in the way of what could have been an excellent and yet more intensely dark solo narrative.
In Pig, the character that Cage creates at first seemed like an off-the-grid misanthrope, but as the film progressed, he became a bit of an everyman. His character showed that ‘we don’t get a lot of things to really care about’ in life, but that we should be doggedly dedicated to the few things that we do care about, otherwise, life is not real. It is not common for me to use heartfelt and intimate in the same sentence discussing a Nicolas Cage film, perhaps not since The Family Man (2000), but here I am doing just that, as Cage even makes his annoying sidekick likable through the connection they build after sharing their past traumas and struggles with feelings of worthlessness. Together, they kill their foe with kindness, bringing them to literal tears of joy in an almost Ratatouille-like moment — it may sound silly, but at no point does this movie give into cheesiness, delivering a full-circle experience that is both pensive and entertaining.
Cage proves that he can truly do anything with Pig, delivering a gritty and emotional performance that rivals any of his other sincere roles; I appreciate Michael Sarnoski for creating a piece that gives Cage the ability to show off his ability to hit some deeper notes. Were it not starring Nicolas Cage and instead some unknown actor, this artsy narrative, with its folk-rock soundtrack and beautiful shots of its Oregon setting would be like any other indie movie, but Cage was a surprisingly good choice to lead this film, as he brought his natural air of mystery to his character while simultaneously giving the otherwise laidback movie a bit of a wildcard element. Although I wish they had spent a few more minutes further explaining the past life instead of glossing over it to make room for his sidekick’s character development, Pig was still fattened up enough with dramatic scenes, gloomy but beautiful cinematography, and an emotionally layered protagonist.
6.5 out of 10