Review: Nicolas Cage shows rare warmth in sobering drama 'Pig'
Courtesy of Neon
Known for his wild, off-the-cuff antics shrouded in unpredictability, Nicolas Cage shows audiences a rarer, more somber side of himself in the effecting drama “Pig.” Taking a break from the glorified B-movies that have since redefined a late career resurgence, Cage tones it down a notch playing a crotchety, battered soul living in the Oregon wilderness with his prized, truffle hog. Walking into the movie blind, you’d assume the film took place in the 18th century, but it’s a modern day tale that takes on fairy tale qualities with Cage in the driver’s seat, delivering an absolute knock-out of a performance.
Cage plays Rob, a man without so much as a pot to piss in. Living in a secluded hut in the middle of nowhere, the only company he shares is with his truffling hunting pig and the quiet ambiance of nature buzzing. Rob lives with only the bare essentials and has human interaction once a week when Amir (Alex Wolff) rolls up in his Porsche to collect the pig’s haul for the local restaurant scene. Clearly something has wronged Rob, but as director Michael Sarnoski unravels the events, “Pig” doesn’t so much become a story of self reflection and revenge, but one of integrity and understanding.
We get to bask in the solitude lifestyle Rob shares with his companion before a group of poachers and ransackers break into the cabin in the middle of the night, sucker punch him in the head, and steal the pig. Considering Cage’s background, one could make the assumption this would dive into cheesy “John Wick” territory where the actor goes on a revenge crusade, breaking knees and cracking skulls to find those who stole his pig. But that doesn’t happen and instead, Rob pulls in favors from his past life as a prominent chef in the industry (he’s been off the grid for a decade so whenever anyone mentions his name in passing, it’s like the prodigal son has returned) to try and locate the culprits.
His exploits lead him to an underground fight club (yes, you read that correctly) where he gets beaten into submission for any leads. And the more “Pig” unearths Rob’s past and the tragedies he’s faced, Sarnoski almost saratizes the restaurant industry and how pretensions cooks can become. Take a scene for example, when Rob runs into an old employee whom he fired for always overcooking the noodles. This hapless schmuck probably knows what happened to Rob’s pig, but Cage plays it straight, offering a touching monologue about not degrading self worth for 15 minutes of fame. Clearly Rob took that advice, albeit in a much more literal way.
But Cage is the one variable who makes “Pig” worth the odyssey, recontextualizing the script's subtext to show layers of a character stuck in limbo. Cage has always tethered on the edge of insanity in all of his films and the Oscar winner used to be a top A-lister, headlining blockbuster franchises and action flicks. “Pig” likely won’t have an impact on his current career trajectory, but it’ll show the world and Hollywood that he was always listening.
PIG opens in theaters Friday, July 16th