(18) Running time: 106 minutes
Director: Kieron Hawkes
Writer: Kieron Hawkes
Starring: Martin Compston, Paul Anderson, Neil Maskell, Louise Dylan
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish, official HCF critic
Piggy starts off much like Brendan Muldowney’s superb 2009 thriller Savage (review), and much like that film Piggy turns very dark indeed. However, Piggy takes you in a slightly different journey in terms of a victims descent into violence, and while it doesn’t quite have the emotional punch of Savage, Piggy is still an unsettling and brutal account of a man’s quest for revenge, made all the more harrowing by a terrific performance by Martin Compston as the quiet and shy Joe, and a menacing, chilling performance by Paul Anderson as Piggy.
Joe is your average everyday person, he doesn’t have a girlfriend, has a steady and un-challenging job and prefers the quiet life to going out and getting drunk. He doesn’t talk much, and thanks to a wonderful voice-over by Compston, we learn that he simply does not have all that much interest in making friends and socialising. In a brief back and forth with some work colleagues, it seems people prefer to laugh at him, and not with him if he does join them for a drink. A lonely life, but it means no complications and Joe is content. He has moved into a new place and life is good, for now. Meet John (Neil Maskell, excellent as ever), Joe’s older brother who is the complete opposite. John cares deeply for his younger brother, and wants to help him make friends and enjoy a social life of drinking, playing games consoles and generally sharing life as brothers should. These early moments are touching and considerate, and thankfully writer and director Kieron Hawkes does not over-do the soppiness and keeps things real and ‘proper manly like’. However, John is not one to back down from a fight, and he seems to have a large group of mates who all respect him, and turns out he has a bit of a reputation. We never fully explore John’s character past the point of merely suggestion, we never see him fight, but we do see him square up to a large group of thugs in his local pub after one of them has an altercation with Joe. This happened to be the person who robbed Joe at knifepoint…
Joe has never said anything of his mugging, and after the altercation in the pub, he decides to leave while his brother and his mates carry on enjoying their evening while the thugs look on, scared of losing a fight to this man. When Joe wakes in the morning the hospital calls, his brother has been attacked and in a brutal and savage flashback we learn that he was jumped by ten of the thugs from the pub, beaten and viciously stabbed. Joe meets John’s girlfriend Claire (Dylan) at the hospital, just in time to see his older brother die. With his connection and protection to a normal life gone, Joe goes back into recluse mode, scared to leave the house and unable to live with the guilt of what happened to his brother. One day, a man claiming to be one of John’s best mates arrives at Joe’s house: calling himself Piggy, he offers Joe a solution to his problems, revenge…
The powerful build up, realistic bird’s eye view of a scared young man and his protective older brother make way for a much darker tale as revenge takes over. With you already having a real connection with Joe thanks to the excellent performance by Compston and his honest, open voice-over, the descent into madness feels all the more disturbing as Piggy leads him on a revenge journey that will change his life forever. Anderson’s performance as Piggy is utterly horrible, scarily convincing and incredibly chilling. Anderson clearly loved every minute of his role, however as a viewer, some scenes may be a little hard to stomach. Hawkes expertly directs Piggy and Joe stalking their prey during the night. Wearing pig noses as disguises, the pair hunt for John’s killers one by one, and learn locations of the thugs after kidnapping one of the group and torturing him. The violence on offer in these later moments is often brief, sometimes off screen but it is effective enough to keep up the sense of realism. A quick punch to the face is usually all it takes to bring a man down, and the increasingly violent attacks reach their peak when Piggy repeatedly stamps on one thugs head: you don’t see it, but it is the sound of squishing flesh and bones and squirting blood which will unsettle. However, Joe has not quite embraced the violence yet, Piggy is in charge, but Joe is slowly changing and Compston’s performance really drills home the message that he is becoming more and more dangerous.
The film interestingly takes a unique turn come the final act, and whereas I had a pretty good idea what was going to be the eventual outcome, I was totally taken aback by what happened next. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is interesting, clever and all the more chilling. Piggy is a unique revenge flick, helped by strong performances, an honest and well crafted sense of realism, it is brutal, shocking and well written and a terrific, almost arty score gives the film a strong, and haunting edge. Piggy is well worth checking out, and if you are a fan of home-grown movies then you should really give this a chance, you might be surprised.