Nicolas Cage’s “pig” is a fine example of Pet Noir
Everyone knows you don’t mess with Keanu Reeves and his puppy, but in Michael Sarnoski’s first film, Pig, released today, it turns out that getting between Nicolas Cage and his pork buddy can also lead to serious, uh, beef. In a quietly appealing performance, Cage pays Rob, a lone truffle hunter living in a cabin in the wild Oregon woods. That’s until his beloved Truffle Pig is stolen from him in a violent robbery that leaves him unconscious and in a jumble of ketchupy.
Only then do we learn that Rob is, in fact, a retired assassin of some notoriety – no waiting! – a renowned retired chef, better known as Robin Feld, whose very name shakes the white tablecloths of Portland’s chic food scene. And now Robin Feld is back from self-imposed exile because – as he tells almost anyone who wants to listen to him – he wants his pig back. And he’s going to get it, even if he has to hit every hot table in town.
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Yes Pig seems … a little strange so yes, that assumption is correct. And the movie gets even weirder, with a weird bosses fight club scene that leads nowhere and an unconvincing father-son subplot involving Amir (Alex Wolff), a nutty luxury goods supplier, and his father. Darius (Adam Arkin) who, coincidentally, has a tyrannical grip on Portland’s luxury goods market. But what he firmly establishes is that there is a new genre of film in town, in which marked heroes seek to save or avenge, not a dead woman or missing girl, but an animal friend who sees the darkness in their soul (but not the red and green like – fun fact – dogs and pigs have dichromatic vision!). We call it… Pet Noir.
It’s not all cinema either – let’s not forget that Doomguy in the video game Loss was quite unhappy with the death of his rabbit, Daisy – also the name of John Wick’s dog, do what you want with it – although he had a dead wife and child as a bonus to avenge for good measure. There is also the independent film version: see Kelly Reichart Wendy and Lucie, in which Michelle Williams goes in search of her dog, but with less anime-style fight sequences; or Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete, in which a young boy runs his doomed horse.
And yes, maybe the hapless animal is a MacGuffin by another name (the MacPuffin? Struggling here), but it’s also possible that there are other nuances for Pet Noir to explore. John Wick’s puppy is of course a posthumous gift from his late wife, while Rob in Pig reveals that he wants his mate to return not for her skills as a truffle hunter, but for something deeper spiritually … Prepare for the most intense caresses.
Pig is in theaters now and available on altitude film starting August 23.
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