When word got out that Nicolas Cage was set to star in a thriller-drama about a forager whose beloved pig goes missing, it sounded like one of the actor’s most absurd projects yet – but Cage defied expectations with Pig, thereby breaking his bad movie streak. Known for his work in action movies and cult classics, Cage has developed an acting style that is often unrestrained and unconventional. His tendency to take on unusual roles, while admired by many, has also contributed to his status as a frequent meme subject on the internet.
Then came Pig and its glowingly positive reviews. In Michael Sarnoski’s directorial debut, Pig follows the story of Cage’s character: a grizzly recluse and former chef in Portland named Robin “Rob” Feld. When his truffle hunting pig goes missing, Rob enlists the help of a restaurant supplier named Amir (Alex Wolff) to track down the missing sow. It turns out that Amir’s father, Darius (Adam Arkin) was behind the heist. Later in the film, Rob admits that he doesn’t need his pig to hunt truffles; he appreciates the companionship, especially since his wife is no longer alive. The story also explores the rich culinary scene of Portland and Rob’s troubled relationship with it.
Compared to most of Cage’s movies, Pig is much more introspective and poetic, which is why the film appeared to break the actor’s bad movie streak. Before this movie, Cage recently appeared in poorly reviewed action-thriller movies such as Arsenal (2017), 211 (2018), and A Score to Settle (2019), as well as the sci-fi flick Jiu Jitsu (2020). Grand Isle (2019), a film in which Cage portrayed a crazed veteran, even earned a score of 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics characterized these films as cliched and underwhelming; however, these types of projects are now Cage’s signature style, which means it’s difficult to categorize them as part of a losing streak when that’s what he’s known for.
With Pig, however, came one of the best performances of Cage’s movie and TV career. The film scored 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site’s critics consensus describing it as “a beautiful odyssey of loss and love anchored by Nicolas Cage’s affectingly raw performance.” While the pacing of the story is a challenge at times, it’s an unexpectedly meaningful story given the premise. Cage nails the character, and his portrayal of the quiet, mysterious woodsman is a reminder of his talents as a seasoned actor and ability to deliver an intimate performance.
Perhaps Cage’s success playing a character on the fringes of society comes with his own abandonment of big blockbusters. “I do feel that I’ve gone into my own wilderness and that I’ve left the small town that is Hollywood,” Cage said in an interview with Variety. His pursuit of smaller independent films has surely led to more creative freedom. But his subdued performance in Pig won’t likely become the norm; Cage was set to star as Joe Exotic in a Tiger King spinoff before the project was canceled, and he will soon recreate his most memorable and unusual roles as a fictionalized version of himself in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.