by Rob DiCristino
Spoilers ahead. Just watch the movie. It rules.
Michael Sarnoski’s debut feature is called Pig. It’s a dingy, understated indie starring Nicolas Cage as a bearded recluse with eccentric fixations. Though his character is mostly stoic and withdrawn, Cage occasionally indulges the audience with wild-eyed outbursts and paranoid monologues as the film’s strange little plot develops. Given most of the actor’s recent output, we can predict popular responses to Pig: Mainstream moviegoers will ignore it, Cagehounds (like our own Patrick Bromley) will champion it, and film journalists everywhere will use it as an opportunity to write their yearly “Is Nicolas Cage Actually Great?” pieces, which — and I need everyone to listen carefully here — stop being ironic meme fodder when nearly every one of Cage’s performances is a revelation. Honestly, though, Pig’s trailer does reek a bit of granola cottagecore nonsense, and committed skeptics will enjoy sharing GIFs of a crusty Cage searching for truffles. Joke if you want. That’s fine. But Pig is one of the best films of the year.
The last few years have given us a wealth of great vengeance stories. Coralie Fargeat’s Revenge. The John Wick series. My beloved The Last of Us Part II. They are stories of pain, stories that explore a broken protagonist’s efforts to balance a cosmic moral scale through violence and destruction. The contradiction, though, is that revenge is inherently subtractive. We are not replacing anything when we exercise revenge; we are simply removing more things. That’s the whole problem with the enterprise: That loss we feel is permanent, and causing others to lose in equal measure is just hollow, empty compensation. It’s not real. It’s fleeting, and it can consume us (again, see The Last of Us Part II). But it’s not long into Pig that we realize we’re watching a different kind of vengeance story. As Robin retraces the steps of his former life — that of a prominent West Coast chef and restaurateur — we see him exercising justice through addition, rather than subtraction. His revenge is not a destructive act, but a constructive one.