Michael Sarnoski’s ‘Pig’ Defies Expectations

Of all the movies at the box office last weekend, the usual suspects were at the top of the pack; “Space Jam 2” dethroned “Black Widow” as the highest earner, and other mainstream blockbusters filled out the next seven spots on the list. Buried in the rankings at number ten, “Pig” may not be the most-known movie in the theater, but it’s worth your time nonetheless. The first major feature from writer/director Michael Sarnoski, “Pig” follows an Oregon truffle hunter named Robin (Nicolas Cage) as he scours Portland in search of his stolen pig. The hunt takes him deep into the seedy underworld of high-end restauranteering, forcing Robin to confront his life prior to reclusion.  

As absurd as it sounds, the movie takes itself quite seriously, presenting a gritty, slow-burn drama that makes you think. For those expecting a swine version of “John Wick” or “Taken,” you may be disappointed; there are no gunfights, car chases or flashy martial arts–just a man doing whatever it takes to find his beloved companion. “Pig” is raw and real, with the film’s cinematography and score reflecting the weighty subjects of loss and desperation. The movie also focuses on the illusory nature of social constructs, specifically the pretentious whims of elite diners which dictate how others should live (and eat). 

Nicolas Cage as Robin, Neon

Nicolas Cage’s performance in “Pig” is on par with the best of his career, and it’s definitely one of the best parts of the film. Hidden behind long, greasy hair and a bushy beard, Robin is jaded after years of dealing with superficial customer’s and grieving his wife’s death. Cage harnesses this energy of Robin’s character to craft a compelling portrayal; he exudes a quiet tenacity which would make even Clint Eastwood second-guess himself. We don’t find out much about Robin’s past, and Cage plays into this mysterious aura well. When he speaks, it is calculated and succinct, with not one word overspent.

Cage’s acting isn’t the only notable performance of the film, though. Alex Wolff plays a truffle broker who reluctantly accompanies Robin on the search for his pig, and the two slowly bond throughout the film. Since first appearing on the entertainment scene as a Nickelodeon star in the late 2000s, Wolff has made a name for himself in recent years as an actor in various dramatic roles from “Hereditary” to the “Jumanji” films. In “Pig,” Wolff’s character Amir is the perfect foil to Cage’s Robin, fully embodying the materialistic, profit-driven lifestyle which Robin left behind. Wolff displays his usual proclivity for dynamic performances, and the on-screen chemistry between he and Nicolas Cage is evident.

As far as endings go, “Pig” is one of those films that defies expectations. Some viewers might find this to be unsatisfying or anticlimactic, and there is a strong argument for a longer third act. The conclusion is abrupt, which becomes particularly noticeable when compared to the rest of the film’s protracted plot. It’s not without its merits, however, as Sarnoski provides a glimmer of closure in the final minutes of the movie. While perhaps not for everyone, the effect of the sudden ending is palpable, providing the audience a chance to ruminate on the entire film.

“Pig” is now showing in theaters nationwide.

By Mitchell Turner

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