Everyone knows that you don’t mess with Keanu Reeves and his puppy, but in Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut, Pig, out today, it turns out that coming between Nicolas Cage and his porcine pal can also result in some serious, er, beef. In an attractively understated performance Cage pays Rob, a reclusive truffle hunter living in a cabin in the wild woods of Oregon. That is until his beloved truffle pig is stolen from him in a violent robbery that leaves him in unconscious and in a hot ketchupy mess.
Only then do we learn that Rob is in fact a retired assassin of some renown – no wait! – a retired chef of some renown, better known as Robin Feld, whose very name causes the white tablecloths of Portland’s swanky dining scene to tremble. And now Robin Feld is back from self-imposed exile because – as he tells almost anyone who will listen – he wants his pig back. And he’s going to get it, even if he has to hit up every hot table in town.
If Pig sounds… a bit odd then yes, that assumption is correct. And the film gets odder still, with a strange chef-based fight club scene that goes nowhere and an unconvincing father-son subplot involving Amir (Alex Wolff), a bratty supplier of luxury produce, and his dad Darius (Adam Arkin) who, as luck would have it, has a tyrannical grip on Portland’s luxury produce market. But what it does firmly establish is that there’s a new film genre in town, in which scarred heroes seek to rescue or avenge, not a dead wife or a missing daughter, but an animal friend that sees the darkness in their soul (though not the red and the green as – fun fact – dogs and pigs have dichromatic vision!). We’re calling it… Pet Noir.
It’s not just film either – let us not forget that Doomguy in the videogame Doom was pretty unhappy about the death of his rabbit, Daisy – also the name of John Wick’s dog, make of that what you will – although he had a bonus dead wife and child to avenge for good measure. There’s also the indie film version: see Kelly Reichart’s Wendy and Lucy, in which Michelle Williams goes in search of her dog, albeit with fewer anime-style fight sequences; or Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete, in which a young boy takes his doomed horse on the run.
And yes, maybe the ill-fated animal thing is a MacGuffin by another name (the MacPuffin? Struggling here) but it’s possible also that there are further nuances to Pet Noir to be explored. John Wick’s puppy is of course a posthumous gift from his late wife, while Rob in Pig reveals that he wants his companion back not for her truffle-hunting skills but for something more spiritually profound... Prepare for petting at its heaviest.
Pig is out in cinemas now and available through altitude.film from 23 August
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