Nicolas Cage is an enigma. The Oscar winner and former highest paid actor in Hollywood, Cage’s life off-screen has been tabloid fodder for many years. But even with his short-lived marriages, various legal issues and tax troubles, he is also noted for making substantial donations to a number of humanitarian causes and for being the UN Ambassador for Global Justice not once but twice. On-screen, Cage has developed a cult following among his fans who love both his extreme method acting style and his penchant for choosing offbeat projects and characters. One of those offbeat characters will hopefully be Joe Exotic in a scripted series about the Tiger King. Although it was reported in July that Amazon has shelved the project, people close to the production are hopeful it will land at another studio. Stay tuned! For now, though, there’s his latest film, PIG, and his performance may just be the thing that will push me to join the Nic Cage Fan Club.
In PIG, Cage plays Rob Feld, a recluse who lives in a cabin deep within Oregon’s forests. Together with his foraging pig, he hunts for truffles, which he sells to Amir (Alex Wolff, OLD; HEREDITARY), a young supplier of luxury ingredients to Portland’s high-end restaurants. Rob’s peaceful existence changes in a moment, though, when he is beaten up by some people who steal the pig. Wanting to get it back safe and sound, Rob enlists Amir to take him into town where the trail to the pig leads from a fellow local truffle-hunter to a group of drug addicts to an underground fight club to a head chef at a trendy restaurant who knows Rob from days gone by and finally to Darius (Adam Arkin, TV’s CHICAGO HOPE and NORTHERN EXPOSURE), a man both Rob and Amir know very well. Though Rob has turned his back on the industry, he never forgot every dish he ever made for his customers. With Amir’s help, Rob sources some key ingredients to prepare a dinner that Darius will never forget again.
Like Cage himself, PIG is full of surprises. Just when it seems like the film is going to be a John Wick-style revenge thriller, first-time feature director Michael Sarnoski, who co-wrote the story with Vanessa Block, shifts gears and PIG becomes a chalk-and-cheese, buddy road movie where finding the pig becomes less important than the journey along the way. That’s not a bad thing either. In between Rob and Amir coming up against Portland’s colourful underbelly, the two men learn about each other and face up to the losses that they’ve each been suppressing for too long.
Dare I say, Cage is fabulous here and it wouldn’t surprise me if he snags an award nomination or two for his performance. It’s wonderfully restrained and heartfelt as he makes Rob a very sympathetic character. There’s a scene that Rob has with a little boy who is sitting by himself playing behind Rob’s old house that is incredibly powerful in its understatement. My colleagues and I are divided on who the little boy is. I say he’s Rob’s grandson though there’s nothing in the story that would indicate him to be so. The way he interacts with the boy, though, leads me to believe that Rob knows who he is but isn’t prepared to emotionally go to that place where he has to deal with why he’s estranged from his family… assuming he has one, of course. This is what is so good about this story. There is so much that isn’t answered, not just about Rob’s life but about Amir’s too.
It’s also a delight to see Adam Arkin on screen again. The actor, whose career has mostly been on television, has for the past decade been doing mostly one-off guest spots or small story arcs that run over a few episodes. Interestingly, on NORTHERN EXPOSURE, he played a grumpy recluse who had been a gourmet chef.
PIG is available now on Amazon Prime Video. If you’re a Nic Cage fan, it’s a must-see. If you’re not, it’s a must-see too. It may just end up on my list of favourite films of 2021.
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