Dir. Kieron Hawkes, UK, 2012, 100 mins
Cast: Martin Compston, Paul Anderson, Neil Maskell, Louise Dylan
Review by Eva Moravetz
Piggy, from writer-director Kieron Hawkes, follows in the footsteps of traditional gritty crime dramas but with a sophisticated mixture of brutal realism, stylish visuals and effective music.
Joe (Martin Compston) is a youngLondonloner who works as a delivery boy by day and locks himself up in his apartment by night. He’s a self-confessed hermit who cannot relate to others and avoids people when he can. He looks up to his older brother John (Neil Maskell) who is his polar opposite: loud, confident and not afraid of his own shadow. During a night out in a pub, Joe is harassed by some local thugs and John comes to his defence. Feeling uncomfortable, Joe quietly excuses himself and returns home soon afterwards. Next morning, there is a desperate phone call from Claire (Louise Dylan), a friend of John’s, saying that John is in hospital having been viciously attacked. Soon after Joe gets there, John dies. Joe goes deep in shock and tries to cope with it all by retreating from the world even more. A few days later, a stranger knocks on Joe’s door claiming he’s an old friend of John called Piggy. Piggy’s mind is set on vengeance and Joe is swept away by his no-nonsense approach to planning their revenge. They soon become inseparable and start hunting down the men who killed John. However, the attacks become ever more gruesome and Piggy seems to have a different side to him…
The problem with Piggy is that it quickly becomes contrived. Joe’s constant narrative monologue throughout the film often points us to already anticipated directions, and the sharp contrast between Joe’s repressed introvert and Piggy’s uncontrollable aggressor makes us suspect an obvious psychological twist in the making. What’s missing though is a complexity to the plot; after the first killing everything becomes slightly predictable and the violence nastier.
What saves the film – and Piggy is an impressive movie despite its flaws – are the charismatic performances of the two leads and the addictively stylish visual effects thanks to cinematographer James Friend. Clever camerawork is used to heighten tension in violent situations or highlight the psychology of Joe’s melancholia and isolation in more philosophical moments. The sadistic elements of the film – kidnap, torture, and murder – are often not shown but implied using sound effects, intensifying the experience even more.
Martin Compston’s Joe is subtle, intense and convincing as a shy man repressing his anger and grief, even though, occasionally, he looks void of emotion altogether. Paul Anderson’s Piggy is far more gripping – he basically dominates the whole picture. Piggy is both mesmerising and disturbing as his character is so volatile switching from friendly and funny to downright monstrous.
Piggy could have been a brilliant movie if only it had as much content as it has style. It still impresses though; not bad from an up-and-coming feature director.