Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin, David Knell, Julia Bray, Elijah Ungvary, Gretchen Corbett, Sean Tarjyoto, Darius Pierce, Tom Walton, Davis King, Nina Belforte, Dana Millican, October Moore
Written by: Michael Sarnoski, based on a story by Michael Sarnoski, Vanessa Block
Directed by: Michael Sarnoski
MPAA Rating: R for language and some violence
Running Time: 92
Date: 07/16/2021

Pig (2021)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Piggy Back

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

What might have been a typical, one-note revenge movie actually becomes a bleakly atmospheric, oddly touching, surprisingly perceptive drama, with a grizzled, powerhouse performance by Nicolas Cage.

Robin (Cage) lives in a remote cabin in the woods, spending his days hunting truffles with his beloved pig, and baking rustic mushroom tarts. Every so often, Amir (Alex Wolff) arrives from Portland to buy or trade for truffles. One night, intruders break in, bash Robin over the head, and make off with his pig.

Bloodied and beaten, Robin makes his way to town and phones Amir, who picks him up and begins to take him on the trail to retrieve his animal. Along the way, secrets of Robin's earlier life as a chef come out, and Robin's presence causes others to question their own choices. What fate awaits Robin at the end of the search?

A feature directing debut by Michael Sarnoski, Pig begins deceptively, setting up what we expect will be a familiar story, showing Robin hunting truffles, cooking and baking, and dealing with the flashy, acerbic Amir. (It seems to have much in common with two other fine Cage movies, Joe and Mandy.) At first it doesn't make sense that Amir would help Robin, but the more detail comes out, the more we realize how much Amir respects him, and it comes together. (Wolff gives a fine performance as well.)

The theft of the pig (who doesn't have a name... only referred to as "my pig") is a genuinely shocking moment, and then the movie begins to deepen in unexpected ways. It takes place largely within an elite, high-class restaurant industry, and even the smallest characters emerge in potent ways. Robin almost acts as a mirror image to others, revealing their true selves, uncovering whether a person is shallow, or crooked.

In a way, Pig is really about cutting through the glitz and discovering what really matters. A simple, surprising, and powerful denouncement is one of Cage's great movie moments, and a moment to remember.

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