True story: I grew up in a factory town at a time when factories across the United States were starting to scale back and die out. Consequently, the whole place ended up being a bit rougher than it needed to be. We had more than our fair share of violence, but – where I specifically grew up – wasn’t what I would call a bad neighborhood. However, as the youngest and only boy in a group of houses having teenagers, I was bullied quite a bit. No one ever hurt me, but I was threatened quite a bit. I suppose that’s why I – even at this day – do largely keep to myself when out in public; so I can understand part and parcel of the emotional undercurrent that makes a thriller like PIGGY work the way it does.
Mind you: I don’t condone its violence. I’m only saying that I understand where it comes from, and that’s a big difference.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “When young Joe’s brother is brutally murdered by a street gang he decides to team with an old friend, Piggy, who’s got a taste for revenge. The two begin a grueling and bloody mission to knock off the gang members one by one. Hard, gritty and disturbing, this violent, vigilant crusade will leave you both shocked and cheering as they exact their brutal justice one victim at a time.” One man’s horror porn is another man’s street anthem, and that’s the stuff simmering just below the surface throughout so much of PIGGY, a work of art written and directed by relative newcomer Kieron Hawkes.
Joe (played brilliantly by innocent-looking Martin Compston) spends most of his days in the big city locked away behind a securely bolted door. He’s seen more than his share of roughness on the streets in his young life, and he’d like nothing more than to avoid it, so much so that he goes blocks out of his way should be spot trouble on the streets. Unfortunately, his job as a package courier requires him to be out amongst those he fears most, and this only builds an inner anxiety he finds spiraling out of control. In his world, there’s no rest for the wicked.
When he’s given the chance to avenge the stabbing of his older brother, Joe is reticent at first. Piggy (Paul Anderson, in a performance that should turn a few heads) offers him the opportunity to learn how to dispense vengeance by way of torture, and it’s a tutelage the young man reluctantly accepts. One by one, those who did the nasty deed are caught, tortured, and ultimately killed, with Joe’s participation slowly mounting. When only one is left, Joe realizes how far he must go in order to complete his indoctrination into this brave new world … and it’s a price most won’t see coming.
I enjoyed PIGGY quite a bit; in some ways, that alarms me, much as Joe finds himself captivated more and more by Piggy’s acts of violence. Both he and I realized we couldn’t turn away – he because of his personal attachment and I because their shared fates interested me as a viewer – and we both inevitably have to pay some price for admission. (FYI: Joe’s is much higher than mine.) The young man’s commitment faces its greatest challenge when he finds himself smitten with one of his late brother’s paramours – Claire, as played by the irrepressibly fetching Louise Dylan. Despite their slowly unlocking affections for one another, Joe cannot leave behind his other heart’s desire, that being bringing an end to what he and Piggy have wrought.
The parting shot? It leaves intelligent audiences with something to think about for a change. Is the only way to combat urban violence with greater urban violence, or will that essentially spell our doom? The way I see it, Joe was doomed either way.
PIGGY (2012) is produced by DP Films and Fulwell 73. DVD distribution is being handled by Inception Media Group. As for the technical specifications, this is one smartly shot indie picture, and the sights and sounds are indeed pretty interestingly paired with the subject matter. To my utter dismay, there were absolutely no special features to speak of, and that’s a big, big miss so far as this viewer is concerned; while I may not have wanted to spend more time with the main event – it works very well at 106 minutes – I would’ve liked to have known more about the players before and behind the camera.
RECOMMENDED. At its core, PIGGY is a revenge flick – part psychology drama, part exploitation thriller. (FYI: there’s no nudity to speak of; it ain’t that kind of exploitation film.) It tries to take a page out of similar films that have come before it, at times maybe even trying evoke the broader tapestry of something like FIGHT CLUB, but it works best when it stays lean and mean. Indeed, writer/director Kieron Hawkes fashions a gruesome tale that exposes how a few folks come to terms with a society they can’t quite control but can’t help trying to.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Inception Media Group provided me with a DVD copy of PIGGY by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.