Critics enjoy Nicolas Cage’s new culinary thriller Pig, highlighting Cage’s performance and direction that elevates it above “John Wick with a pig.”
Nicolas Cage has appeared in a lot of movies with rocky critical receptions, but his latest release Pig has received largely positive reviews. Critics have praised Cage’s performance as a former elite chef turned recluse, along with the efforts of first-time director Michael Sarnoski and the film’s patient writing. For many, Pig is a reminder of why Cage is such a fascinating actor despite the unevenness of his work.
Pig begins as a somewhat meditative account of a man’s relationship with his pet pig, with Cage starring as the bearded and mysterious Rob. When the pig is stolen, Rob must team up with ambitious food supplier Amir (played by Alex Wolff) and return to the underworld of Portland’s culinary scene. The plot has drawn comparisons to the frequently imitated John Wick, but Pig‘s focus is less on high-stakes action and more on Rob’s character.
This pacing and style are more similar to arthouse films than either action blockbusters or the B-movies that Cage often appears in. The movie avoids conventional narrative satisfaction and catharsis as it gradually reveals more about Rob’s world. Critics appreciate Pig‘s pacing and focus on characters.
Chicago Sun-Times writes:
“Pig” is not a revenge film, nor is it the most compelling mystery in the world, though we care greatly about the fate of that poor creature, and we do eventually find out what happened to her. It’s a rustic, poetic, occasionally funny, sometimes heartbreaking and wonderfully strange and memorable character study of a man who is in such tremendous pain he had to retreat from the world.
Rolling Stone also praises Pig‘s unusual and imaginative depiction of the culinary world:
Amir and Rob become an unhappy couple, with the former stepping in — not exactly willingly — to help the latter. Because at the end of the day this is a business, and a lost pig spells trouble for them both. And so Pig descends, somewhat subversively, into an unexpected underground that, aside from Cage, is the best thing about the movie.
Nicolas Cage’s star performance has been one of the biggest focuses of positive reviews. His character in Pig is more sensitive and wounded than angry, in line with other recent surreal Cage vehicles like Mandy and the underrated Lovecraft adaptation The Color Out of Space.
The AV Club singles out Cage’s performance for praise:
None of this would work without Cage’s commitment to the idea of Rob as both arrestingly iconic and resolutely human. Few of the things Rob does are wholly credible—least of all his refusal to accept any treatment for his many wounds, just letting the blood dry and cake on his face throughout, undisturbed—but his emotions are so raw and forceful that they fling your disbelief skyward until it winds up in orbit, well out of your way.
The Film Stage agrees:
It is remarkably intense, understated work, utilizing his potential to physically intimidate within the confines of a character who is fragile and just wants his friend back. The way his performance expands throughout the runtime is remarkable—he allows himself to openly reminisce and grieve before the inevitable shutdown comes. There are moments throughout Pig that rank amongst the best scenes he’s ever had as an actor, further revealing how much of a groundbreaking talent he is.
Writer and director Michael Sarnoski also receives credit for his cinematography and attention to detail. Critics enjoy the way Sarnoski depicts everything from fight scenes to meals with careful attention, to detail and draws out strong performances from both Cage and the less well-known supporting cast.
Sarnoski is often content to focus his camera on a small detail or glance, or to cut away right in the middle of a dramatic moment, as if trying to represent cinematically the mindfulness that Robin seeks, and that maybe he lost with the theft of his pig.
The Atlantic also enjoys Sarnoski’s work:
As Rob invades various Portland houses of haute cuisine in search of his pig, the film turns into something of a food travelogue. The first-time writer-director Michael Sarnoski (who co-wrote the story with Vanessa Block) beautifully shoots each sumptuous meal that Rob and his nervy ally, Amir (Alex Wolff), take in as they search for Pig’s kidnapper.
Nicolas Cage is known for his intense and unique acting style, but many of his films have fared poorly with critics, such as the generally derided action-comedy Willy’s Wonderland. Pig bucks this trend by earning plaudits for Cage’s performance as well as its pacing and direction. The movie has a 97% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 82 on Metacritic, as well as high audience scores, suggesting that many viewers, as well as critics, enjoyed seeing Cage in this offbeat thriller.
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