Joe (The Disappearance of Alice Creed's Martin Compston) is a meek young man living in London, afraid of his own shadow. His older brother John (Kill List's Neil Maskell) is the opposite. He is confident and forthcoming and doesn't back down. Unfortunately this leads to trouble after an altercation with a gang of thugs at a local pub leads to John being violently murdered and Joe left in a complete tailspin.
Until he meets Piggy...
Piggy (A Lonely Place To Die's Paul Anderson) introduces himself as an old friend of John's, so outraged at John's murder that he wants to help Joe find his killers and exact revenge. Piggy is a strange man, Anderson plays the role with a calm and focus that goes beyond "confidence" and right into "sociopathy".
John's murder was the result of machismo aggression left unchecked, and while that is depicted to be as ugly and senseless as possible, Piggy's methods prove to be far more disturbing. Under Piggy's guidance, Joe learns to be methodical in his violence. The attacks are not crimes of rage but cold, logical and pre-mediated.
Piggy is an agent of vengeance. It's not an act of impulse, it's a purpose. He takes sadistic levels of satisfaction in his violence, pushing him far beyond the thoughtless brutality of John's death. The moral debate on revenge is pushed to its breaking point with Piggy's vicious spree.
Frankly, this is not a film designed to spark such debate, Piggy's (the film and the man) philosophy on revenge is clearly laid out and very difficult to support. In the way movies like Wanted glorify violence as an act of self-improvement, Piggy puts forward the notion that the only way to find peace in the wake of incredible tragedy is through revenge.
Points for attempting something somewhat bold, so few modern revenge movies really embrace that concept and avoid throwing in back-tracking moments of clarity, but if Piggy wanted this subversive notion to hold any weight, and wanted to really challenge the audience, the initial crime needed to be far more shocking. A simple stabbing, while shockingly depicted, is not strong enough to stir up that primal reflex in the audience.
While Hawkes may have misjudged the themes of the film, or at least the execution of them, he gets everything else right. The performances are strong, with every actor delivering something that feels natural and unpredictable. Hawkes also knows when to revel in the violence and when to pull away and let our imaginations take over. The tension flows in peaks and troughs, there's a surprisingly confident control of the build-up and pay-off, giving everything a rhythmic momentum.
Piggy proves to be a strong, nasty little debut feature which displays a lot of confidence and while it doesn't really offer anything new to the genre, it is worth seeing for the great lead performance by Paul Anderson.