Monday, June 04, 2012

Fighting with the Darkness in Piggy: A Movie Review

Director/writer: Kieron Hawkes.

Cast: Paul Anderson, Martin Compston, Josh Herdman, Neil Maskell and Louise Dylan.

It is sometimes interesting when a film explores a character's psyche. This is the case with first time director Kieron Hawkes' Piggy. Joe (Martin Compston) is the subject of the psychological exploration and the results are a little vague. The journey to this conclusion is enjoyable as a psychological thriller should be, with Joe accepting a darker more sinister side.

Joe is the protagonist and he is disaffected by modern society. Set in London, Joe goes to work, numbs himself with booze, and then rinses repeats. He is a character with social anxiety; he fears others and a darker part of himself. That shadowy side is projected in the character Piggy (Paul Anderson). He is an imaginary friend returned from his childhood after the violent death of his brother brings his world into turmoil. He must connect with his own darkness to find a way out of grief.

And this film is almost exclusively a character study as Joe and Piggy battle for supremacy. The prize is ownership of the psyche and a lot of people will die before a winner is determined. Joe's brother, John (Neil Maskell), is murdered on a dark street corner. His death is what begins the battle as Joe must leave behind his safe life in favour of one that is much more bloody. He seeks vengeance on a local gang who deal drugs and prey on the vulnerable. They will pay for Joe's loss.

And this gentle antagonism between shy lad and confident killer is the crux of the film. But, what is the solution? Writer Kieron Hawkes does not really have a solution. Certainly, Joe becomes a fuller character at the end of the film. However, is one's true potential found in bloodshed? Of course, the answer to this question is no. But then, what is the point of the film? Viewers will have to search for their own answer to this question. Yet, the only insight this reviewer walked away with is Joe's drive to complete his bloody business. As they say: "don't start something you can't finish."

Piggy shows some polish, as well. The production values of this feature are of quality. The score from Bill Ryder-Jones is one of the best this film fan has heard. The music is light and hopeful despite the dreariness of sets. Pianos haunt in back alleys and the soundtrack is one of the most memorable aspects of the film. The acting from central characters Paul Anderson (A Lonely Place to Die) and Martin Compston (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) are good despite Compston's dry character, Joe. Hawkes' directing is diverse and he keeps the film interesting. Only the writing and the film's message dampens the mood.

Piggy was released in the United Kingdom on DVD May 21st. Fans of psychological thrillers will likely enjoy this film despite the inconclusive conclusion. Piggy is for mature audiences as the blood and gore is over-the-top; kiss your sweet dreams good by. And Hawkes shows some confidence in his storytelling style. It is just too bad that Joe does not find a similar confidence or a purpose.

Overall: 8 out of 10 (interesting character study, a character arc, a few more surprises needed, a great score).

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