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“Piggy” is a gritty British revenge thriller, which marks the feature debut of writer director Kieron Hawkes. Martin Compston (“The Disappearance of Alice Creed”) stars as Joe, a socially awkward, shy young man sleep walking through life in London, whose only real pleasure comes from meeting up with his older, tougher brother John (Neil Maskell, “Kill List”). After John is murdered by a gang of thugs, Joe feels even more lost and abandoned by the world, until one day Piggy (Paul Anderson, recently in “A Lonely Place to Die”) turns up at his door, claiming to be an old friend of his brother. Although a friendly fellow, Piggy has justice on his mind, and slowly brings Joe around to his way of thinking, resulting in a campaign of violence and murder.
“Piggy” is a film very much in line with other dark Brit urban thrillers like “Savage” and the 2008 Michael Caine vehicle “Harry Brown”, painting a grim picture of modern life and offering its disaffected male protagonist the chance for brutal payback. On this score, the film unsurprisingly struggles to attain any sense of originality or identity, and the plot itself is entirely predictable from start to finish, with its few twists being pretty obvious from the start. Matters aren’t helped by an overlong running time, and the film does frequently show lapses in pacing, which undermines Hawkes’ efforts to generate any kind of tension. Worse, while the film attempts to take a more psychological and emotional approach to the subject matter by charting the ways in which Joe’s character changes for the worse, this is ruined by an at times laughable voice over in which he spouts pretentious, angst ridden nonsense about his life and modern society.
Hawkes fares a little better as director than writer, and the film is reasonably well helmed, benefitting considerably from some effective cinematography by James Friend. The film does have an authentically London feel, and does a good job of depicting urban threat and decay without going over the top. Unfortunately, Hawkes shows an odd predication for blurred camera work, which at times takes away from the film’s look, and needlessly employs a huge amount of slow motion. Although this was presumably included to highlight Joe’s disconnection with the world going on around him, it only serves to drag the pace down further.
This is all perhaps a touch harsh, as “Piggy” really isn’t too bad a film, and for a debut feature it has a fairly confident feel, with some decent production values. Hawkes shows the good sense to inject a decent amount of blood and violence, and though some is kept off screen, he does enough to give the film a convincingly tough edge. The acting is also solid throughout, with Martin Compston in particular turning in a fine, quietly nuanced performance that impressively manages to keep the spotlight away from the more over top antics of the Paul Anderson, who delivers an effective and entertaining air of menace. Sadly, the always welcome Neil Maskell doesn’t show up for long, though is on good form for his short screen time, and the rest of the cast, mostly made up of semi-recognisable Brit genre faces, all acquit themselves well enough.
This gives “Piggy” a lift and an air of professionalism, enough so to help overlook at least some of its flaws. Really, the main problem here is the failure to offer anything new, and though the film should please viewers looking for more of the same and does tick most of the right boxes, there’s a definite lack of ambition. This is something Hawkes will have to overcome with his second feature, as whilst he makes his share of mistakes here, there’s enough to suggest that he can, and hopefully will do better.
Kieron Hawkes (director) / Kieron Hawkes (screenplay)
CAST: Paul Anderson … Piggy
Martin Compston … Joe
Josh Herdman … Anthony
Neil Maskell … John
Louise Dylan … Claire
Roland Manookian … Craig
Jumayn Hunter … Frank