Review: Piggy (2012)

Joe (Martin Compston), an introverted and easily alarmed delivery boy, starts to warm to his intimidating surroundings as he spends more and more time with his older brother, John (Neil Maskell), and his current flame, Claire (Louise Dylan). But when John is murdered after a calamitous run-in with a violent mob, Joe quickly sinks back into his formerly reclusive life. That is, until Piggy (Paul Anderson), John’s former friend, arrives. Hellbent on exacting revenge on those who killed John, Piggy leads Joe down a lethal path – one that will alter his life

Uninspired, tolerable and predictable are but a mere handful of words that can be used to sum-up Piggy’s story. While newcomer writer and director Kieron Hawkes shows promise, predominantly in the way he dedicates a vast chunk of the setup introducing us to Joe’s strengths, weaknesses, and the healthy bond he shares with John, much of this is thrown out the window come the discomposed final act. It’s a real shame as it’s rare for a film of Piggy’s nature to establish such an authentic and relatable character, which makes the tailspin into ridiculousness feel all the more exasperating.

That being said, he really does show promise in his direction and characterisations. Not only does he employ the talents of cinematographer James Friend to fabricate a vision of London that feels entirely in-keeping with Joe’s apprehensive nature (dark, closed-in alleyways do well to reflect Joe’s constantly on-edge persona), but he also uses sound and restrained camera angles to limit what the audience is exposed to when it comes to the sharp scenes of violence while still seizing on the impact. The cautious approach Hawkes takes to establishing the oppressive, yet sinister ambience of the film makes the mismatched narrative all the more vexing.

The discord that constantly pushes and pulls the narrative is evident again in the performances. While Compston does good work in projecting Joe’s unease towards the world that surrounds him, interrupted only by the flash of happiness and contentment he feels when in the company of John and Claire, Anderson finds difficulty in Piggy’s elusiveness. He may do lunatic well, but there’s not enough skepticism between his Piggy and Compston’s Joe to make their sudden relationship seem plausible, which renders the latter half of the film – in which they’re almost constantly on screen together – untenable.

It would be too harsh to completely write Piggy off, mainly because there’s a lot of promise in Hawkes’ directorial eye and the way in which he renders his main characters believable in the surroundings they inhabit. But, when presented with a level of honesty typically amiss in the gritty British drama, it makes what follows feel all the more disheartening. If only Hawkes had spend more time carving out Piggy’s character and making Joe’s fall from grace realistic to his own personality, then Piggy would have been a real winner. Never mind, there’s always next time.

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