Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

dir-scr Michael Sarnoski
prd Nicolas Cage, Steve Tisch, Vanessa Block, Dori Rath, Joseph Restaino
with Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff, Adam Arkin, David Knell, Dalene Young, October Moore, Darius Pierce, Tom Walton, Gretchen Corbett, Julia Bray, Elijah Ungvary, Davis King
release US 16.Jul.21,
UK 20.Aug.21
21/US Neon 1h32

cage wolff arkin

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cage and his pig
With his feature writing-directing debut, Michael Sarnoski keeps a straight face while infusing a story with sarcastic wit. So even with its with bonkers details, and another wonderfully unpredictable Nicolas Cage performance, the film never winks at the audience. While some snappy lines are intentionally funny, the story has a riveting emotionality that carries a proper kick. And as a movie about food, it's also sometimes rather delicious.
In the Oregon wilderness, grizzled hermit Rob (Cage) and his faithful pig forage for truffles and sell them to Amir (Wolff), who supplies Portland's hipster restaurants. When Rob's pig is violently kidnapped, he heads into the city to demand Amir help find her. This requires Rob to travel into his past as a top chef, rekindle old acquaintances and revisit an underground fight club. He'll also have to face Amir's powerful father Darius (Arkin), who's determined to take over Amir's business and makes Rob a generous offer. But all Rob wants is his pig.
The dense woods around Rob's cabin make the opening sequence shadowy and haunting, with sparse rays of sunlight filtering through the trees. And this aesthetic continues throughout the narrative. There are comments that Rob has neither bathed nor left the woods in a decade. And because the unnamed pig oinks more than Rob speaks, the silence after the kidnapping is deafening. So it's easy to understand that his relentless quest is connected to something much deeper than truffle-hunting.

Cage delivers plenty of gristle as the soft-spoken Rob, looking so filthy that we can almost smell him. He's clearly feared in Portland, a ghost everyone had forgotten about, and Cage's considerable presence is all he needs to steal every scene. By contrast, Wolff's Amir is hilariously slick and entitled, apologising for the shaggy Rob by telling people he's Buddhist. He deepens the role as Amir begins to understand who Rob really is and what makes him tick.

The film sharply traces the line between earthy nature and gentrified dining, revelling in how appearances are deceiving. Rob is enormously respected by the wealthy posers who initially bristle at his shabbiness, utterly disconnected from the source of their culinary creations. So it's hugely entertaining to watch Rob turn the tables by simply growling the truth. "You're not real," he says. "The critics, the customers, none of it." This is a bracing comment on how easy it is to lose sight of ourselves as we try to become successful based on someone else's expectations.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 16.Jul.21

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