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British Film Review: Piggy
Directed By Kieron Hawkes
Piggy is the feature directorial debut from Kieron Hawkes. It tells the story of Joe (Martin Compston), a shy, quiet recluse in his early twenties, who embarks on a journey of revenge and retribution. When his brother John (Neil Maskell) comes to visit Joe begins to come out of his shell. That is until a horrific attack on his brother leaves Joe alone and feeling further detached from society.
Consumed with guilt, anger and a desire for revenge Joe is visited by Piggy (Paul Anderson), an old friend of John’s. Piggy comforts and helps Joe, offering him an outlet for his emotions. But Piggy has his own agenda. Compelled by Piggy they seek out and exact bloody vengeance on those responsible for Joe’s brother’s death. But once Joe crosses that line there may be no way back.
Piggy belongs to that contemporary trend of British revenge thrillers which reached its zenith with Shane Meadows’ Dead Man’s Shoes in 2004, and was seen most recently in the Michael Caine vehicle Harry Brown in 2008. It’s a violent film about the underbelly of life in London which raises interesting questions around justice, revenge, grief and the effects they have on people.
However, like most modern revenge films Piggy struggles in its final act. As many contemporary, British revenge thrillers focus on seeking vengeance against hoodies, they must strike the right balance between ensuring the film satisfies the audience’s thirst for violence, while delivering a sense of justice, without condoning the actual violence. Piggy is no exception.
Yet where Piggy succeeds in its ending is ultimately Hawkes’ exploration of a theme less concerned with violent revenge (although the film features a lot of it) but rather the psychological effect such action has on Joe. His character arc is a descent into darkness, a realisation about his true self. The film might not successfully explore this theme or make its finale as satisfying or believable as it could have been but it deserves credit for revealing an engaging and thought-provoking theme at its heart.
The film is stylishly shot by cinematographer James Friend. London feels real, lived-in and not just a picture postcard of famous locations. The cinematography also captures Joe’s sense of drifting through life more successfully than either the script or acting. Its blurry, out-of-focus style brings to life the stoned haze with which Joe experiences his life.
For the most part the acting is excellent. Neil Maskell brings his dominant and intimidating presence from Kill List to bear and steals the early part of the film. Then Paul Anderson arrives as the impressively terrifying and unpredictable Piggy. Piggy is the driving force of the story and as such the film’s success weighs heavily on Anderson’s shoulders. For the most part Anderson’s performance is a success and it only falters as Hawkes attempts to navigate his thematic ending. Piggy is a dangerous vigilante who stalks his victims in a predatory way, but he is also all too believable and recognisable; relishing and embracing his violent tendencies.
Supporting these two characters is Compston. A lesser actor would have disappeared against the strong performances from Maskell’s and Anderson’s performances and it is credit to Compston that he emerges from the film so well. As the story unfolds and Joe unravels, Compston reveals the levels of grief, anger, fear and loss of control with a measured, rewarding performance.
Piggy is a good, solid debut from Kieron Hawkes and it will be interesting to see what he does next. The film is intriguing and provocative and offers some engrossing performances, particularly from Anderson and Compston.
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