3.5 out of 10

Release Date: 4th May 2012

Director: Kieron Hawkes

Cast: Paul Anderson, Martin Compston, Louise Dylan, Roland Manookian, Ryan Winsley, Jumayne Hunter, Josh Herdman, Sonny Muslim with Ed Skrein and Neil Maskell

Writer: Kieron Hawkes

Trailer: PIGGY 

A sluggish pace and an uncharacteristically unsure central performance from Martin Compston (FOUR) scuppers what could have been a taut little thriller.  The central conceit has been done a few too many times recently, so in order for it to have been fresh it needed a far snappier execution than what’s been presented here.  Bullied loner, Joe (MARTIN COMPSTON) goes to his delivery boy job and at nights hides himself away in his drab flat.  One night he is mugged (SONNY MUSLIM – CHERRY TREE LANE) and this sends him scurrying further inwards until the appearance of his livelier brother, John (NEIL MASKELL – KILL LIST) puts some normality back into his life. John helps him come out of his shell a little bit but an altercation in a local pub with four or five thugs led by Ed Skrein (ILL MANORS) and Roland Manookian (JUST FOR THE RECORD) ends  in violence.  All the above serves as prologue for what comes to follow.  All I’ll add is that the titular Piggy, an old friend of John’s shows up at Joe’s flat. His aim? To get Joe to take revenge on John’s assailants.  Piggy (PAUL ANDERSON – A LONELY PLACE TO DIE) is an ultra violent vigilante character who thinks mercy is the  French word for thanks.  A chilling but slightly hammy performance also tips the film into troubled waters.  One by one the gang fall at the hands of Joe and Piggy via a series of ever disturbing torture methods.

The trouble with Piggy is that it’s episodic and repetitive.  The despatch of the gang members proves to be a slog rather than an fast exercise in visceral horror and torture.  Out of the thugs, it’s predictably, only Roland Manookian who remains in the memory as the particularly puzzled and upset coward of the group who gets to see his remaining days out chained to a radiator. Ed Skrein also makes an early impression but his scenes are short.  The rest of the gang like Harry Potter’s Josh Herdman or the ubiquitous Jumayn Hunter (I ANNA) I’m struggling to recall either of their fates and I think there may have been a fifth guy <?> The main fault of the film are the two central performances.  The actors speak too slowly and Piggy in particular emphasises every single syllable.  Martin Compston‘s (a Scotsman) southern accent is shaky and he seems to be struggling with the role. Both of them have potentially great roles but Compston fails to grip his role with two hands and get his teeth into it, whereas Anderson needs more subtlety.  It’s true that they needed to be opposites but their readings are off-kilter.  The direction is slightly fussy too because a simple revenge tale is rendered slow and clunky.  There are good performances further down the ranks from actors we’ve come to depend on here at Britpic Bungalows.  Anderson is great if cast well, his Bex in The Firm remake in 2009 was superb and chilling and he’s proven to be good in his recent henchmen roles.  This may be his first misstep because he’s a fascinating actor.  Compston is everywhere these days and he’s generally good.  Piggy just stretched usually reliable actors the wrong way.  It’s like singers who stick to a range so therefore always seem to sound amazing.  Why, like on reality shows like Pop Idol, people have to sing songs their voices aren’t built for is beyond sense to me.  Whilst the actors shouldn’t stick to their comfort zones, they should still apply their strengths to what they’re comfortable, hence the need for casting directors / assistants.

3.5 out of 10 – Far from a disaster.  To have succeeded it needed to be slicker and less fussy. The central two (whilst great actors) are miscast here.  The plot conceit has been overdone recently and fails to convince on this occasion. Piggy is worth watching for good supporting roles from the ever dependable Roland Manookian and Neil Maskell.

Joe Pesci II’s review is below….


One thought on “PIGGY

  1. PIGGY by Joe Pesci II

    I’d been putting this one off. Brit Pic Dick visited my distant home during the torrential rains last autumn, bringing with him only his good lady wife and a ‘bounty’ of some twenty British movies. Including PIGGY, which looked particularly dodgy. I was right to be hesitant, but for the wrong reasons.

    PIGGY follows the story Joe, a callow and cautious young man, who foolishly lives in Camden, one of the more vibrant areas of London. His is a hermetic existence, though he is occasionally prised out of his shell by his brother (imaginatively named John). But they go to a pub and an altercation with a bunch of thugs leaves John dead and Joe guilty.

    Then, out of nowhere, up pops a sinister chap by the name of Piggy, an old friend of the deceased, who encourages Joe to wreak terrible vengeance upon the killers. And that’s what happens (or does it?). And who is Piggy? I came up with an answer to that question within seventy seconds of the film beginning, and nothing that happened subsequently proved me wrong, but I’m sure I’ve got to be wrong. SPOILER ALERT: although I must give nothing away, PIGGY is basically a cover version of FIGHT CLUB.

    The biggest surprise with PIGGY is its style. After opening with a pointless flash-forward promising brutal violence galore, we get the film’s title picked out in Times New Roman (with some blobs and splotches), the sort of thing you might use for a fairytale perhaps. Then we go into Poliakoff-land, as Joe makes his hesitant way round a beautifully shot London accompanied by swoopingly romantic strings on the soundtrack. It screams out ‘Serious film! We’re gonna show this at Cannes!’ Meanwhile Martin Compston is narrating away with a London accent not dissimilar to the one pioneered by Colin Farrell in LONDON BOULEVARD. (Fair enough, Compston’s Scottish, but could they really not have found a Londoner?)

    Thankfully, before terminal boredom sets in, up pops Neil Maskell as the doomed John. Now, Maskell may not be the most versatile actor in the world (or he may be, it’s just that he seems to only ever get to play geezers), but he does what he does better than anyone. Sadly he’s dead fourteen minutes later. Although his is the best performance in the film I’d forgotten about him by the time PIGGY lumbers to its unsurprising conclusion, an agonising eighty minutes later.

    So what goes wrong? Quite a lot really.

    Compston’s character is a no-confidence weakling, which Compston plays as boredom rather than cowardice. Piggy, played by Paul Anderson (who succeeds at the dark, miserable side of the character but misses out on the more capricious elements that should surely have been there), is the vicious avenger. And that’s pretty much the way it stays throughout the film. Now, remember, John was killed by a gang of thugs. Five of them. Which means that our heroes have to exact revenge on five people. Having flexed their muscles on a mugger who had conveniently attacked Joe earlier in the film, Piggy and Joe set about the real bad guys, one at a time. First up they have a go at Roland Manookian, who they torture for a bit in what seems to be an atmospherically dingy public lavatory (which I guess was shut what with there being a chained up bludgeoned murderer lying there in his own filth for days on end). Then they go off at a snail’s pace after the rest of the gang. The film-makers seem to be quite enthusiastic at this point, as the next guy on the list gets dragged to an atmospherically dingy disused warehouse and gets kicked to death by Piggy. This sequence is, I have no doubt, the bit of the film which all involved would regard as its moral centre. Because, yes, this is a deeply moral film. (The moral is: revenge isn’t worth it as it just makes you a mad cackling murderer with an imaginary friend.) We watch Piggy as he repeatedly kicks the villain to death (he seems to be concentrating on the chap’s head). I think we’re meant to think ‘my goodness, look at the dehumanising effects of violence, look at the dead-eyed killer whose vengeance, although necessary, fails to produce any catharsis’. What I though was ‘OK the chap’s dead, can we get on with this. Look he’s dead. OK just make sure with a last kick. And another one then if you must. I think he’s dead this time. Well, yes, best to make sure. Again? Wake me up when you’re finished.’ The prospect of sitting through this procedure another three times filled me dread. Fortunately as the film progresses the killings get quicker and less ornate, as if even the film-makers had realised that this really isn’t all that interesting. But how on earth will our heroes get to the main killer, who is in jail? (And who has received a ‘record sentence’ according to a handy newspaper cutting Compston finds). Where there’s a demented will, there’s a way…

    If I was being charitable I’d say that the film is about the cycle of violence. I would go on further to suggest that this cycle is embodied in the film through its use of dialogue, which is quite incredibly repetitive (‘We’re not done Joe. We’re not done Joe. We’re not done Joe. We’re not done. We’re not done. We’re not f****** done.’). I’d even go on to suggest that the film’s slow pace is designed to encourage us to consider the moral implications. But it’s just pretending. The film is poorly paced and narratively weak. It has nothing interesting to say about murder and revenge, it just shows us how to do it (though the advice about the disguise is invaluable both to prospective criminals and victims). It is flawed by its own arguments (I’m not sure if it’s saying ‘revenge is bad – let’s watch lots of it to see how bad it is’ or ‘you’ve got to stand up for yourself, even if it turns you into a homicidal maniac’), and by its pretentious attempts to elevate it from being nothing more than a standard vigilante thriller. In fact, it might have succeeded in its goals (though I’m not sure what they are) if it had just been a standard vigilante thriller, rather than trying to graft ‘significance’, ‘relevance’ and ‘social commentary’ over the top.

    Afterwards, I popped PIGGY into the Google and soon afterwards Amazon were trying to sell me a Peppa Pig DVD. Frankly, that would have been preferable.

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