Pig ★★

John Wick's Revenge on Foodies

When Nicolas Cage as the Pacific Northwest version of a Henry David Thoreau as a truffle hunting hermit leaves his cabin in the woods to lecture Portland hipsters on how they're a bunch of posers--the scene in the pretentious molecular gastronomy restaurant named "Eurydice" being the highlight--"Pig" is amusing enough, but transcendentalist track it's not. It's not even akin to "Into the Wild"(2007) or, if you especially want something quietly relaxing but also ultimately not about much of anything, "Leave No Trace" (2018).

Although the filmmakers have all come out denying they ripped-off "John Wick" (2014) (a fashionable trade these days, as evidenced by the likes of "Atomic Blonde" (2017), "Ava" (2020), "Gunpowder Milkshake," "Nobody," "Kate" (all three also from 2021), etc., and to which we may add "Pig"), methinks they doth protest too much. Just because you removed most of the violent action out of the "John Wick" scenario, as well as a bit of the similar "Taken" (2008), to play against expectations, including hiring Cage to not overact, doesn't mean it's still not derivative--or even, perhaps, something of a mock critique of its action-oriented cousins along the lines of Cage's reading in that restaurant. I mean, the restaurant is named "Eurydice," and his former one was "Hestia." How are such Greek mythology references unintentional in a movie that's a variation of "John Wick"?

A quick rundown of the similarities between the two movies first, though. There's a man retired from his former place in society who's pulled back into that underworld, to display his particular set of skills (gun-fu, cooking, or whatever variation on the music and poetry of Orpheus), after his pet (dog or pig), a replacement for his late wife, is kidnapped or killed by some criminal gang. The man also has an audial-visual or audial or visual token of the dead spouse (a video on his phone, a picture, or a cassette tape recording). His past identity is revealed, a legacy so strong that it largely remains after years in seclusion, and he calls upon past friends for the information or tools of the trade he'll need to exact his revenge. The nadir of the imitation in "Pig" has to be the underground fight club of restaurateurs. What a stupid scene.

Anyways, subdued drama doesn't guarantee thoughtfulness and action-packed doesn't necessarily entail being dumb. The "John Wick" series, especially the first two entries, and "Pig" are a case in point. "John Wick" is a modern retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. It's a myth that's all about the gaze (which is why there are quite a few movies based on the myth, from "The Blood of a Poet" (1930) to "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" (2019)) in a man's grief-stricken descent into the underworld, which "John Wick" makes a pun of in the double sense of "underworld" as criminal world and Hell. It's why he gazes upon images of his dead wife, as in the myth, to gaze upon Eurydice is for her to die again.

So, what does a "Pig" do in retort? Change pictures to an audial recording and a song--but not classical music--and call its artsy-fartsy eatery "Eurydice" and name the other one after the goddess of the hearth. Er, good one? Meanwhile, the picture is divided in a three-course meal of chapters and, ultimately, confronts the baddie foodies, including another dead wife, with more fancy cooking. Call me crass, but all that did for me was make me hungry--and so I grabbed some junk food to snack on while contemplating how removing Greek mythology from your imitation except to snarkily and otherwise incoherently insult the movie you're imitating is in any way clever or profound. I came up with nada. It's as though the script for "Pig" began as a parody but was mucked up in contradictions and so passed off as earnest. Or, arthouse "John Wick," a.k.a. "John Wick" without a budget for big-production action scenes. If not the "John Wick" series, I'd rather have seen another one of its more blatant knockoffs, as at least there's more action and less pretense there.

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